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Chicago sandwich maker cited for unsanitary conditions

(Reuters) - A Chicago producer of ready-to-eat sandwiches for vending machines and cafeterias repeatedly cited for unsanitary conditions and bacterial contamination agreed on Thursday to halt production until it cleans up its act.

An inspection of Triple A Services Inc last summer found production workers failing to change gloves or wash their hands for hours at a time after handling raw eggs or using rags to clean equipment and moving on to other food preparation.

Triple A agreed to halt sandwich and produce preparations at its Chicago facility after the extensive inspection found conditions favorable to Listeria growth, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

The company ships its prepared food throughout Illinois.

The U.S. sued Triple A on Thursday in Chicago and entered a consent decree with the company approved by Judge William Hibbler that requires it to hire a sanitation expert and meet numerous FDA requirements before production can resume.

The FDA inspection from early July to late August found a number of other violations including fluctuating temperatures in a room where finished sandwiches and salads were stored.

Seven prior inspections at the facility since early 2001 had found similar conditions, the federal complaint said.

The latest inspection also found a ceiling cooling unit dripping condensation onto flour later used to make dough and onto onions being cut. A worker also sprayed down the floor and production equipment with a high-powered hose allowed water to reach food and food-contact surfaces.

Inspectors founds birds in a garage where finished goods were transferred to trucks for shipping and apparent bird droppings on carts used to store and transport finished products, the complaint said.

Listeriosis can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, older adults and those who have weakened immune systems. It can cause high fever, headaches, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea in healthy people.

No illnesses have been reported to date from Triple A Services' products, the FDA said.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis)

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