By Lisa Powersand Reider Jensen, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State officials have sought the assistance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate four recent incidents involving the discovery of foreign objects in half-gallon ice cream containers sold at its campus creamery. The University also is taking steps to make its product safer on the shelf.
In mid-May, University officials were made aware by a consumer that a penny was found in a half-gallon of ice cream purchased over the counter at the Berkey Creamery on the University Park campus. Creamery officials, as well as University Police, investigated the incident and at that time, considered it an isolated occurrence, but continued to monitor the situation.
Since that time, three more incidents involving pieces of plastic have been reported found by consumers in various flavors of half-gallon ice cream purchased over the counter at the Creamery. No one has been injured. University officials have conducted an assessment of the process and manufacturing facility and determined that the plastic objects did not come from any of the manufacturing equipment in use and are not part of the production process.
“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.”
In addition to limiting access to production and packaging of ice cream, Creamery officials also have:
1) 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;
2) Notified ingredient suppliers to remain vigilant for any unusual objects in their products, used in making ice cream flavors;
3) Increased surveillance around the facility;
4) 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;
5) 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; and
6) 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.”
According to police, the deliberate tampering of foods is a federal offense. 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 on these incidents contact them at 814-863-1111.