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Vineland Food Factory Fined $463K Over Unsafe Working Conditions, OSHA Says

by Eric Conklin, NJ Advance Media for

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A food company is facing hefty fines after federal safety inspectors say its New Jersey plant harbored unsafe working conditions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration last Wednesday said it proposed fines against Aunt Kitty’s Food Inc. for operating deficiencies at its factory on North Mill Road in Vineland. OSHA proposed the company pay $463,000 in fines, the agency said.

The company is a subsidiary of Hanover Foods Inc. It manufactures canned foods including soups, sauces, pasta, vegetables and gravy. Hanover sells products under the the Bickel’s Snacks, Castleberry’s, John Cope’s, Spring Glen and Wege Pretzels brands.

Attempts by NJ Advance Media to reach a representative for the company were unsuccessful at presstime.

OSHA investigators began probing the South Jersey plant following a complaint in 2023, the agency said last week. Inspectors said they found one willful violation and two repeat and four serious infringements.

Aunt Kitty’s is accused of allowing workers to both service and clean equipment without procedures to prevent machinery from starting unexpectedly. It also failed to develop and implement “lockout/tagout program and written procedures for maintenance and sanitation staff that worked on and cleaned production equipment in the canning and filling department.”

“Ensuring lockout/tagout procedures are established and used can make the difference between an employee ending a shift safely and suffering a serious, life-altering injury,” OSHA Area Director Paula Dixon-Roderick said in a statement.

The plant is also accused of leaving workers vulnerable to injuries by not installing proper guarding on conveyor belts and providing baseline and annual audiograms.

The company has 15 days from receiving the proposed fines to respond to OSHA.

The citations aren’t the only instance where Aunt Kitty’s faced operation woes in the past year.

In October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the company was recalling nearly 13,000 pounds of canned chicken pot pie soup over mislabeling undeclared allergens. Those cans were sent to nearby states, including Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania and as far away as Texas.