Internal documents leaked by a former employee of Beyond Meat Inc. detail a list of food-safety issues that include mold and listeria at a Pennsylvania-based factory. According to the Los Angeles Times, on at least 11 occasions, products from the factory tested positive for the harmful bacteria. The document lists the contamination as occurring between the second half of 2021 and lasting through the first half of this year. Additional confirmation came from two former employees who asked for their identities to remain hidden.
Listeria is commonly found at food plants, yet only discovered in the actual products under unsanitary conditions. Between January and April a former employee took photos that reveal the poorly managed factory. In addition to spills, unsafe equipment use, moldy walls and food containers, as recently as December, foreign materials like string, metal, wood, and plastic had been found in the food.
Bloomberg reviewed the spreadsheets, which show weekly test results from the factory. Of 56 tests between the aforementioned period, the most recent positive case of listeria was in May of this year.
Despite spreadsheets and internally prepared reports that detail the above, in response to the accusations, Beyond Meat says a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspection in March and September “found no instances of nonconformance with regulations.” They further state that the company’s food safety protocols “go above and beyond industry and regulatory standards.”
“Mold growth takes a while — that underscores a lack of cleanliness,” said Bill Marler, a food-safety attorney, after viewing some of the photos.— Bloomberg (@business) November 21, 2022
“If neat and tidy is 1 and filthy is 10, I’d put this at an 8” https://t.co/bdWjgpJz27 pic.twitter.com/Yy9YXzcB1p
Food safety attorney Bill Marler reviewed the photos, sharing, “Mold growth takes a while — that underscores a lack of cleanliness. If neat and tidy is 1 and filthy is 10, I’d put this at an 8.”
According to Beyond Meat’s Chief Executive Officer Ethan Brown, the factory was established as a key part of the company’s goal to build a “global protein company” that could compete with the meat industry. It was purchased in 2020 with upgrades planned to help reduce plant-based protein production costs. With lower costs and efforts to increase the factory size, the company could achieve their goal.
Currently, with high inflation and supply chain complications, expansion plans are on hold. We previously covered the challenges plant-based proteins face operating in a marketplace historically dominated by conventional meat. The issue is compounded by Beyond Meat’s declining stock price, steady drop in cash reserves, and legal trouble an executive has recently faced.
Continuing to affirm their position, a Beyond Meat spokesperson said, “External third-party audits, including our most recent third-party audit in May 2022, gave the plant the highest-possible rating in each of the last three years.” No details about the audits or auditors were given.
For more information regarding the challenges Beyond Meat faces and the steps being taken to overcome them read here.