Rodent Infestation at Family Dollar Warehouse Leads to Hundreds of Closures – The New York Times

The value-store chain Family Dollar said on Saturday that it had temporarily closed more than 400 stores after the discovery of a rodent infestation and other unsanitary conditions at a distribution center in Arkansas touched off a far-reaching recall of food, dietary supplements, cosmetics and other products.

A recent Food and Drug Administration inspection of the facility, in West Memphis, Ark., found live and dead rodents “in various states of decay,” rodent droppings, evidence of gnawing and nesting, and products stored in conditions that did not protect against these unsanitary conditions, the agency said in a statement on Friday.

A fumigation of the facility last month revealed more than 1,100 dead rodents, and a review of company records indicated the collection of more than 2,300 rodents from late March to September, “demonstrating a history of infestation,” the agency said. Rodent contamination can cause salmonella and infectious diseases, the F.D.A. said.

Families rely on stores like Family Dollar for food, medicine and other products, and those items should be safe, Judith McMeekin, an associate commissioner in the agency’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, said in the statement.

“No one should be subjected to products stored in the kind of unacceptable conditions that we found in this Family Dollar distribution facility,” she said. “These conditions appear to be violations of federal law that could put families’ health at risk.”

Family Dollar said in a statement that the voluntary recall, which also covers drugs, medical devices and pet food, includes F.D.A.-regulated products that were stored and shipped from the distribution center to 404 stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Kayleigh Campbell, a Dollar Tree spokeswoman, said in an email on Saturday that the company had “temporarily closed the affected stores in order to proficiently conduct the voluntary recall,” and that the stores would reopen as soon as possible.

“We take situations like this very seriously and are committed to providing safe and quality products to our customers,” Ms. Campbell said. “We have been fully cooperating with all regulatory agencies in the resolution of this matter and are in the process of remediating the issue.”

The recall covers products that were stored at the distribution center from the beginning of 2021 to the present. It does not apply to items shipped directly to the stores from distributors or manufacturers. Family Dollar said it was not aware of reports of illness related to the recall.

“Family Dollar is notifying its affected stores by letter asking them to check their stock immediately and to quarantine and discontinue the sale of any affected product,” the company said in its statement. “Customers that may have bought affected product may return such product to the Family Dollar store where they were purchased without receipt.”

The F.D.A. investigation began in January after a consumer complaint and was completed on Feb. 11, the agency said. In its statement, the F.D.A. said that all drugs, medical devices, cosmetics and dietary supplements should be discarded regardless of packaging. Food in undamaged glass or metal cans could still be used if cleaned and sanitized.

Family Dollar is a brand under its parent company, Dollar Tree, a rapidly growing retail behemoth that operates more than 16,000 stores across the United States and Canada.

Like other retailers, Dollar Tree has struggled with freight and supply-chain costs during the pandemic.

Dollar Tree announced in November a plan to raise the prices of most items in all its stores to $1.25 from $1 after a successful test of the new pricing strategy. Company officials called the decision “permanent” and not a response to current market conditions.

The company said that the price increase, which it first announced it would test in September, would help mitigate freight and distribution costs and wage increases, and would allow it to bring back some products that it was no longer able to offer at $1.

Amanda Holpuch contributed reporting.

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