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Family Dollar closes 400 stores, recalls products after FDA finds decaying dead rodents in warehouse

A Family Dollar store in Ridgeland, Miss., in 2014. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

A rodent infestation at a Family Dollar warehouse has prompted the discount chain to recall a wide range of products sold at hundreds of stores throughout the southern United States.

Health concerns about the rat infestation at an Arkansas distribution center have also led to the temporary closure of more than 400 stores in six states.

Family Dollar, which is owned by the retail giant Dollar Tree, announced a voluntary recall late Friday of some products that came from the West Memphis facility.

The recall covers Food and Drug Administration-regulated products, including medicine, pet food and cosmetics, that were sold between January 2021 and February 2022 in Family Dollar stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

The FDA was alerted to unsanitary conditions at the Family Dollar distribution center in West Memphis, which supplied the stores, by a consumer complaint, the agency said Friday in a news release.

Inspectors wrapped up their investigation on Feb. 11 after finding “live rodents, dead rodents in various states of decay, rodent feces and urine, evidence of gnawing, nesting and rodent odors throughout the facility, dead birds and bird droppings” at the center.

More than 1,100 dead rodents were found after the center was fumigated, the agency said.

The FDA said a look at the company’s internal records showed “a history of infestation” at the Arkansas facility, with more than 2,300 rodents collected in less than six months in 2021.

The company will temporarily close the 404 affected stores as it completes the product recall, Dollar Tree spokeswoman Kayleigh Campbell told The Washington Post.

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

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Judith McMeekin, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said the consumers who depend on Family Dollar stores for necessary goods such as food and medicine “deserve products that are safe.”

“No one should be subjected to products stored in the kind of unacceptable conditions that we found in this Family Dollar distribution facility,” McMeekin said in a statement. “These conditions appear to be violations of federal law that could put families’ health at risk. We will continue to work to protect consumers.”

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Family Dollar said in its announcement that the voluntary recall applies to products that were sent to the affected stores by the West Memphis distribution center, not to “products shipped directly to the stores by the distributor or manufacturer.” The company said it has asked the affected stores “to check their stock immediately and to quarantine and discontinue the sale of any affected product.”

The FDA said that it initiated its investigation of the warehouse, known as Family Dollar Distribution Center 202, last month and that “Family Dollar ceased distribution of products within days of the FDA inspection team’s arrival on-site.”

Rodents can pass diseases on to humans, including salmonellosis, an infection caused by salmonella bacteria, which can be especially dangerous to immunocompromised and other vulnerable people. Family Dollar said it has no knowledge of “any consumer complaints or reports of illness” tied to the recalled products.

The FDA advised consumers to throw away any drugs, medical devices, cosmetics and dietary supplements they bought from the affected stores in the past 13 months but said that “food in non-permeable packaging (such as undamaged glass or all-metal cans) may be suitable for use if thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.”

Family Dollar said customers also can return recalled products for a refund.

As inflation soars in the United States and abroad, Americans are increasingly turning to dollar stores to afford food and medicine. But those stores, like other retailers, are facing increased production and transportation costs, and they are passing on some of those costs to consumers.

Dollar Tree, which owns Family Dollar, announced in November that it would raise the price of some of its products from $1 to $1.25 — a price hike its chief executive, Michael Witynski, said at the time would give the company “greater flexibility to manage the overall business, especially in a volatile, inflationary environment.”

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