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Family Dollar fined $42 mln for storing food, drugs in rodent infested warehouse

Christian Fernsby |
Family Dollar Stores, affiliated to Dollar Tree, agreed to pay $41.675 million after pleading guilty to holding consumer products including food and drugs in rodent infested warehouse, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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It is the largest ever monetary criminal penalty in a food safety case, the DOJ noted.

As per the statement by the Justice department, the company stored food, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics under insanitary conditions at its West Memphis, Arkansas, distribution center.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome T. Kearney at federal court in Little Rock, Arkansas charged Family Dollar with one misdemeanor count of causing FDA-regulated products to become adulterated while being held under insanitary conditions.

In pleading guilty, the company admitted that its Arkansas distribution center shipped FDA-regulated products to more than 400 Family Dollar stores in Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

As per the plea agreement, the company began receiving reports of mouse and pest issues with deliveries to stores in August 2020.

Certain stores reported receiving rodents and rodent-damaged products from the warehouse by the end of 2020. The company also admitted that by no later than January 2021, some of its employees were aware that the insanitary conditions caused FDA-regulated products held at the warehouse to become adulterated in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).

Despite these issues, Family Dollar continued to ship FDA-regulated products from the warehouse until January 2022, when an FDA inspection revealed live rodents, dead and decaying rodents, rodent feces, urine, and odors, and evidence of gnawing and nesting throughout the facility.

The subsequent fumigation of the facility resulted in the reported extermination of 1,270 rodents.

Family Dollar in February 2022 recalled all drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, and human and animal food products sold since January 1, 2021 in the 404 stores that had been serviced by the warehouse.

The plea agreement includes a sentence of a fine and forfeiture amount, and also requires Family Dollar and Dollar Tree to meet corporate compliance and reporting requirements for the next three years.

U.S. Attorney Jonathan D. Ross for the Eastern District of Arkansas said, "Consumers trust that products purchased from retail stores such as Family Dollar are safe.

"It is incomprehensible that Family Dollar knew about the rodent and pest issues at its distribution center in Arkansas but continued to ship products that were unsafe and insanitary. Knowingly selling these types of products not only places the public's health at risk but erodes the trust consumers have in the products they purchase."


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