Over 400 Family Dollar stores are closed across the U.S., including in Mississippi, amid FDA warnings that products purchased at the stores from January of 2021 to the present may be unsafe. An inspection of a distribution center in Arkansas found unsanitary conditions; including live and dead rodents, rodent feces and urine, and evidence of gnawing and nesting throughout the facility. More than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered during fumigation last month.
An updated report shows that officials were aware of the infestation since at least January of 2020, with at least 3,200 rats being captured between March of last year through January of this year. And when they were fumigated, the facility didn’t remove products in the warehouse, putting potentially contaminated items even more at risk. More details are expected when the FDA report is finalized.
Potentially contaminated items include human and pet foods, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and cosmetics.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, several categories of FDA-regulated products purchased from Jan. 1, 2021, through the present from Family Dollar stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee may be unsafe for consumers to use. The impacted products originated from the company’s distribution facility in West Memphis, Arkansas, where an FDA inspection found unsanitary conditions, including a rodent infestation, that could cause many of the products to become contaminated. The FDA is working with the company to initiate a voluntary recall of the affected products.
“Families rely on stores like Family Dollar for products such as food and medicine. They deserve products that are safe,” said Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs Judith McMeekin, Pharm.D. “No one should be subjected to products stored in the kind of unacceptable conditions that we found in this Family Dollar distribution facility. These conditions appear to be violations of federal law that could put families’ health at risk. We will continue to work to protect consumers.”
Consumers are advised not to use and to contact the company regarding impacted products. The agency is also advising that all drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, and dietary supplements, regardless of packaging, be discarded. Food in non-permeable packaging (such as undamaged glass or all-metal cans) may be suitable for use if thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Consumers should wash their hands immediately after handling any products from the affected Family Dollar stores.
Consumers who recently purchased affected products should contact a health care professional immediately if they have health concerns after using or handling impacted products. Rodent contamination may cause Salmonella and infectious diseases, which may pose the greatest risk to infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and immunocompromised people.
Following a consumer complaint, the FDA began an investigation of the Family Dollar distribution facility in West Memphis, Arkansas, in January 2022. Family Dollar ceased distribution of products within days of the FDA inspection team’s arrival on-site and the inspection concluded on Feb. 11. Conditions observed during the inspection included live rodents, dead rodents in various states of decay, rodent feces and urine, evidence of gnawing, nesting, and rodent odors throughout the facility, dead birds, and bird droppings, and products stored in conditions that did not protect against contamination. More than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered from the facility following fumigation at the facility in January 2022. Additionally, a review of the company’s internal records also indicated the collection of more than 2,300 rodents between Mar. 29 and Sep. 17, 2021, demonstrating a history of infestation.