By Jen Christensen and Brenda Goodman, CNN
A US Food and Drug Administration inspection report gives graphic details about a significant rat infestation at a Family Dollar stores distribution facility in West Memphis, Arkansas.
On Friday, the FDA warned that various products bought within the past year from Family Dollar stores may be contaminated and unsafe to use.
Also Friday, Family Dollar issued a voluntary recall of certain items that were sold after January 1, 2021, at hundreds of stores throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, according to a news release. The company said it wasn’t aware of any consumer complaints or reports of illness related to the recall.
The 22-page FDA inspection report, acquired by CNN on Tuesday, describes a dirty, rat-infested facility where merchandise including human and animal food was stored. The inspectors note that they observed “rodent evidence, including live rodents, dead rodents of various states of decay, rodent excreta pellets … gnawings, nesting, and odors indicative of rodents throughout the entirety” of the facility.
The FDA report says Family Dollar has been aware of the rodent problem since at least January 2020. The general manager told inspectors that when there was a fire drill in October, “dozens of rats could be seen running around the facility due to the loud and sustained sound of the fire alarm,” the report said. Because the stench from the rodents was so bad in one part of the facility, the company even stopped using a breakroom and an inventory control center, the report said.
Family Dollar spokesperson Kayleigh Campbell told CNN in an email that the company temporarily closed the affected stores. “in order to proficiently conduct the voluntary recall of certain FDA-regulated products. Our teams are working hard to reopen these stores as soon as possible.
“We take situations like this very seriously and are committed to providing safe and quality products to our customers. We have been fully cooperating with all regulatory agencies in the resolution of this matter and are in the process of remediating the issue,” she added.
Emails acquired by the FDA that were mentioned in the report said some stores reported receiving goods from this distribution center that have been chewed and contained rodent pellets. In one case, a “live large rat” was in one of the boxes, and another store said a rat jumped out of a pallet of goods.
The facility also sent out drug products to stores that had been in the warehouse during fumigation, the inspection report says.
The FDA inspected the facility on more than one occasion in January and February. Its findings included:
- Rodent droppings “too numerous to count … on the floor of the north end of the shipping dock where product, including food, is stored” and in several areas throughout the facility
- The ceiling tile and carpeting had to be removed in October 2021 from an office “due to the odor in the rooms” from the rodents. The report said that there was still a “putrid odor permeating the now cleared out room.”
- Several dead mice and rats, in addition to droppings too numerous to count
- “Multiple (no less than 5) rats climbing up rack scaffolding and through a pallet containing potato chips” in an area that had a “strong odor of rodent excreta and urine”
- Inspectors watched as “two mice exited from gnawed-open product bags.”
- Pallets with food that had “significant nesting material” under them
- A “distinct odor indicating a dead/decaying animal” in the unused conveyer belt system
- “Significant gnawings” in addition to “too numerous to count” rat droppings and a “strong odor of rodent urine” on a pallet of mixed nuts. “Multiple bags of products were gnawed open and product was spilling out of cases onto lower levels of the pallet.”
- Pet and human food that was improperly stored and had gnaw-holes and rat droppings
- Rotting garbage that could be smelled from 5 feet away
- Trash that “was piled up to 1.5 feet tall and extended up to 2 feet out from the facility’s walls”
- Bird droppings that covered an area of the floor 1.5 feet wide and 3 feet long
- At least two dead birds
The FDA’s examination of pest control records documented:
- Up to 107 mice from 2020 through June 2021 and up to 31 roof rats in areas that included food storage.
- The company’s bait boxes and glue traps captured 2,300 rodents between March and September 2021 alone.
- During January 7-12, 2022, 150 roof rats were captured.
- After fumigation during January 16-20, 2022, about 1,097 rodent carcasses were removed from the facility.
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.
CNN’s Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.