Whole Foods Closes Regional Kitchens, Says It Isn’t Related To Sanitation Problems

Image courtesy of Glyn Lowe Photoworks

For prepared food items in its stores along the East Coast, Whole Foods uses regional kitchens, each of which cooks various in-house items and distributes them to dozens of stores. The company recently announced that it’s closing the facilities in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Georgia, for reasons that have nothing to do with past sanitation issues in one of them. Nope.

You may remember the kitchen covering New England, which earned a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration over unsanitary conditions in the facility, and had 15 days to address them. Problems that FDA inspectors discovered included evidence of a strain of Listeria that doesn’t make people sick, but that thrives in places where the potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes also could.

In late 2015, chicken salads made at the same Everett, MA, facility were recalled for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Other sanitation problems included ceiling condensation dripping on ready-to-eat foods like mushroom quesadillas and pesto pasta, inadequate hand-washing stations, and employees spraying harmful chemicals near exposed salad greens.

That’s all in the past, though, and Whole Foods say that the past problems in Massachusetts don’t have anything to do with its decision to shut down all three kitchens. A Whole Foods spokeswoman told the Austin American-Statesman that the three facilities combined employ about 500 people, and the company will try to place them in other jobs with the chain if possible.

Instead of using these kitchens, Whole Foods will have outside vendors prepare fresh food items from its recipes, which is what it does outside of the East Coast.

“As part of our ongoing plan to streamline operations, we have decided to leverage the expertise of our supplier network to create some of the high-quality prepared foods sold in our stores,” the chain explained in a written statement.

The regional kitchens will close in March.

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