Texas Flushes Out Unlicensed Food Manufacturers

The state of Texas has been cracking down on hundreds of businesses across Texas that have been manufacturing and selling food without a state license.

“Many of the companies we have discovered are small operations that were simply unaware they needed a state license,” Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, told The Dallas Morning News. “For the most part, they have been more than willing to get into compliance with us.”

The state has identified 355 companies that appear to be producing and selling a wide variety of food products without obtaining a manufacturing license from the state, and some without the health inspections intended to ensure the safety of those products, the Morning News reported. Most of these companies ultimately passed inspections without serious problems, and no fines have been issues for sanitation violations, Williams said.

The state reportedly went searching for unlicensed food manufacturers after last year’s discovery of an unlicensed peanut-processing plant in west Texas owned by a subsidiary of Peanut Corp. of America. Salmonella found in PCA products made at a George plant sparked a massive, well-publicized recall last year.

Texas health department officials told the Morning News that this current crackdown is an effort to reduce any potential for food contamination. A two-year food-manufacturing license costs $104 to $1,731 depending on the company’s gross annual food sales. The license also requires a periodic unannounced state inspection of the processing plant.

So far, 185 of the new cases have been “resolved,” meaning state inspections of the businesses were completed and licenses were issued, Williams said. The remaining 170 businesses on the list are being systematically inspected at a rate of about 20 a month.

One of the largest businesses involved was House-Autry Mills, which makes corn meal and cooking batter products — most of it manufactured in North Carolina — sold in 8,000 stores in 28 states. The company opened a production facility in Texas three years ago, unaware that a state license was required, a company official told the Morning News, noting that the manufacturer conducts its own internal and third-party inspections.

The owner of Kap’s Pepper Co. in Dallas said he didn’t know he needed a manufacturer’s license to sell jalapeño jelly because he buys it already jarred and boxed from an inspected kitchen, the Morning News reported. But under state health codes, any Texas company that puts its name and address on a food label must have a manufacturer’s license, even if the products are made by another company. A similar situation befell Angelo’s Bar B Que in Fort Worth, which sells seasonings and sauces through grocery stores, including Albertsons, HEB’s Central Market and Kroger.

Texas Health Commissioner David Lakey said his department has taken the licensing issue seriously since the PCA incident. “Our department is addressing this issue on multiple fronts, including taking aggressive steps to identify unlicensed facilities and bring them in compliance,” he told the Morning News.

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