Valley Milk raided after probe

A tractor tanker backs into a bay at Valley Milk Products along Acton Place in Strasburg on Thursday afternoon. The FDA announced that U.S. Marshals recently seized more than 4 million pounds of dried milk products from the facility after inspectors found unsuitable sanitary conditions inside the plant last September. Rich Cooley/Daily

Federal authorities seized millions of pounds of products from Valley Milk Products’ plant in Strasburg as the result of an investigation over the summer that found poor sanitary practices and evidence of salmonella.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that the U.S. Marshals Service took more than 4 million pounds of product from the facility. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleging the products seized are adulterated under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The U.S. Marshals executed the warrant Wednesday, a court clerk said.

Authorities conducted the seizure after the company refused to conduct a voluntary recall of the implicated products, according to an FDA statement issued Thursday. FDA press officer Megan McSeveney said the agency could not provide further information on the case beyond what it included in the statement.

Authorities seized almost $4 million worth of products that include dry, nonfat milk powder and buttermilk powder packaged in 40- and 50-pound bags for further manufacturing, according to information from the FDA.

The Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association Inc. based in Reston, Virginia, owns the Strasburg facility. The association issued a statement on its website Thursday in which Valley Milk’s owners say other tests showed no signs of salmonella.

A car travels past Valley Milk Products on East King Street in Strasburg on Thursday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Valley Milk Products is working with the FDA to resolve any concerns related to milk powder recently placed under hold by the government,” the company statement reads. “Multiple tests conducted by third parties on the milk powder have been negative for the presence of Salmonella.

“There are no reported illnesses related to this issue, and consumers and customers are not being asked to take any additional action,” the association goes on to say. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have not produced any dry milk powder at Valley Milk since the FDA initiated its inspection in late July. We are confident in the work of our farmers, our dairy industry and government regulators that allows us to continue to produce a safe and nutritious product for our customers.”

FDA inspectors observed poor sanitary conditions during an inspection from July through September. A review of the company’s records showed positive results for salmonella in the plant’s internal environmental and finished product samples, according to the agency.

Investigators observed residue on internal parts of the processing equipment after cleaning by the company. They also saw water dripping from the ceiling onto food manufacturing equipment. Environmental swabs collected during the inspection confirmed the presence of Salmonella meleagridis on surfaces that food came in contact with after being pasteurized.

FDA inspectors worked with the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The Virginia Department of Health permits Valley Milk as a Grade A milk plant, said David Goodfriend, acting director of the Lord Fairfax Health District. Typically, department inspections of Valley Milk occur separately from those conducted by the FDA, Goodfriend said.

“The plant, though, was jointly inspected on August 30, 2016 by VDH’s Lord Fairfax Health District Milk Specialists and FDA Compliance Officers out of the FDA Baltimore District Office and samples were taken by FDA at that time,” Goodfriend said.

The district director referred questions about the FDA’s investigations to the federal agency.

“VDH continues to conduct inspections of Valley Milk as required under their VDH permit and we continue to work with Valley Milk to address any issues identified,” Goodfriend added.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com.