The Arkansas state attorney general is suing value store chain Family Dollar, alleging the company knew of a “massive and long-lasting” rodent infestation at a West Memphis distribution center but still continued to sell potentially dangerous products. contaminated that were stored there.
The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday, came after the company temporarily closed more than 400 stores in February following a Food and Drug Administration inspection that found “a history of infestation” at the facility.
A fumigation completed in January revealed the presence of more than 1,100 dead rodents. Internal company records indicated that more than 2,300 rodents were collected between March and September 2021, according to an FDA report.
Federal inspectors said the company was aware of an “increased rodent presence” at the facility since at least January 2020.
The lawsuit filed by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says Family Dollar knowingly neglected to properly care for the West Memphis facility and misled consumers about potentially contaminated products, all while unfairly profiting from their sale.
Ms. Rutledge said her office was seeking up to $10,000 for each violation of the state’s deceptive trade practices law and a revocation of the company’s authorization to do business in the state.
“We don’t want to shut down one source of groceries and medicine, but if those groceries and medicines aren’t safe, then we need someone else to provide that service,” Ms. Rutledge said.
A spokesman for Dollar Tree, the parent company of Family Dollar, which is also named in the lawsuit, did not respond to requests for comment Saturday. The company issued a voluntary recall of products stored in the distribution center.
Family Dollar lacked written procedures for quality control and equipment cleaning at the distribution center, and did not have a system to track reports of contaminated products shipped to stores, according to the FDA report.
Federal inspectors found live and dead rodents in “various stages of decomposition,” rodent droppings and odors, evidence of gnawing and nesting, and other unsanitary conditions throughout the facility, according to the report.
Rodent droppings, sometimes “too numerous to count,” were discovered on pallets and boxes containing mixed nuts, mouthwash and gelatin, among other foods and medications. Rodent contamination can cause salmonella and fatal infections, the agency said.
The suit says that other Family Dollar stores across the country have been forced to close in the past due to rodent infestations.
These closures, along with the revelations at the West Memphis distribution center, reveal “a much larger and more troubling pattern of willful and intentional negligence and unconscionable deceptive business practices,” the suit says.