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Penn State Solicits Help of FDA to Investigate 'Foreign Objects' Found in Creamery Ice Cream

by on August 13, 2012 6:39 PM

When a penny was found in a half-gallon of ice cream purchased over the counter at Berkey Creamery in May, it was ruled an isolated incident. 

Since then, three more incidents involving consumers finding pieces of plastic inside half-gallon ice cream they purchased over the counter at Berkey Creamery have been reported, Penn State officials said. No one has been injured and Penn State officials have assessed and concluded that the plastic objects did not come from any of the manufacturing equipment in use and are not part of the production process via investigation of the manufacturing facility.

"We have vigorously investigated these reports and followed our traceability protocol to determine that this is not an issue that occurred in the plant. These are not objects used in our production process," said Tom Palchak, manager of the Berkey Creamery. "We have involved police and the FDA investigative unit. We are now taking steps to further limit access to the ice cream ingredients and finished ice cream at various points within the Creamery, such as warehouse and ingredient storage, and food production areas."

Other steps Creamery officials have taken in addition to limiting access to production and packaging of ice cream:

  • Kept police and the FDA involved in the situation as an active and ongoing investigation. The FDA works with other government agencies and the private sector to reduce the risk of tampering or other actions involving the food supply
  • Notified ingredient suppliers to remain vigilant for any unusual objects in their products used in making ice cream flavors
  • Increased surveillance around the facility
  • Contacted the packaging supplier for tamper-resistent packaging solutions, such as a "tamper-evident band" or "skirt" around the lids of ice cream containers to deter tampering after ice cream is packaged and sealed. The bands also ensure the packaging is secure and remains sealed and provides consumers extra assurance of product integrity
  • Reached out to the ice cream industry to have a third-party audit of the facility conducted immediately and gain information on additional best practices that may not yet be in use
  • Moved to purchase an x-ray device and metal detectors that can detect unwanted objects in food products

"These incidents appear random and have been confined to the half-gallon ice cream," Palchak said. "This is obviously a very serious issue. We work hard to ensure that our products are safe, following the strictest protocol, so reports of this type are disturbing to say the least. We are ramping up our food defense plan in the best interests of our customers."

The deliberate tampering of foods is a federal offense, Penn State police said. Before the most recent incidents, only one other incident of a foreign object in ice cream was ever reported and verified at the Creamery, which has produced ice cream for public sale since 1930.

University Police ask that anyone with information regarding these incidents contact them at 814-863-1111.

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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