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Mold growth sparks Albertsons to clean their warehouse

Albertsons’ is taking action and cleaning its Portland-based distribution center after an investigator for a local news station found mold growing on the shelves in the distribution center where food is stored and the shipped to 104 stores.

For several months, patches of hairy, white mold was growing on the shelves where packaged dairy and meat products were being refrigerated in the Albertsons Portland Distribution Center. The 800,000 square-foot facility is located in Northeast Portland. The local news station found the mold growth after it received an anonymous tip from an employee who works for Albertsons’. The employee shared photos of the mold in the facility.

After receiving the pictures, the news station shared them with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), the agency that is responsible for inspecting food warehouses. The sharing of those photos ushered an immediate state inspection of the distribution center.

The inspection report issued by the ODA states, “Metal storage racks used to store packaged food products have a white, hairy, mold-like growth growing on them. Specifically racks… in the refrigerated meat storage room… and refrigerated dairy room.”

Despite the mold growth that was found on the racks, the inspectors said that none of the food was contaminated.

“They were within the law – the food safety law – since no food in the warehouse was contaminated by the mold,” Director of Food Safety and Animal Health at the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Vance Bybee, said.

Bybee also said that the ODA ordered Albertsons to clean up the mold because “non-food-contact surfaces of equipment used in the operation of food plants should be cleaned as frequently as necessary to protect against food contamination.”

The report also stated that the management at the warehouse knew about the problem and had already started cleaning it.

Dennis McCoy, a spokesman for Albertsons, said, “… a non-critical violation does not directly relate to a foodborne illness risk and as such, is a relatively minor violation. No food was contaminated and there was no risk to the foods that we sell, nor to our associates at the warehouse.”

McCoy also said that all of the shelves in the warehouse’s perishable department have been thoroughly cleaned. He said that Albertsons intends on asking the ODA to come back to the facility to re-assess it.

Albertsons would not allow a reporter from the news station inside the distribution center to confirm if the area in question was cleaned. Moreover, the anonymous tipster told the news station that Albertsons knew about the mold problem for months.

To assess the claim, the news station spoke with a microbiologist, Dr. Fred Colley of Pixis Labs. He said, “Mold is not really fast growing, but it never stops”

After he looked at the photo that the anonymous employee sent to the institution, Colley said that the amount of mold was extensive and that it would have likely taken weeks to reach that point.

Mold Inspection & Testing Portland has conducted numerous mold assessments throughout the Portland area. We urge Albertsons’ to perform regular mold tests in their storage facilities to make sure that their products are safely stored. To speak with an MI&T representative, call 971.599.6942.

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