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Rodents, insects found in Virginia ice-cream cone warehouse

By Toni Clarke

(Reuters) - U.S. authorities have seized ice-cream waffle cones from a food storage facility in Waynesboro, Virginia, after inspectors found widespread rodent and insect infestation on the premises.

U.S. marshals seized the products after Food and Drug Administration inspectors determined that the company had not taken effective measures to protect food, equipment or surfaces from contamination.

The company, Gourmet Provisions LLC, does business as Matt's Supreme Cones, the FDA said on Friday.

Authorities also seized products from Royal Cup Inc, which stores coffee service items in a separate area within the Gourmet Provisions warehouse.

On a website showing bucolic scenes of windmills, Matt's Cones says it began its baking operations in Virginia in 1992, carrying on a family tradition started in 1929 in the Netherlands.

"In our first American plant, and now in our larger, more modern plant in Waynesboro, Matt's combines Dutch tradition with the most modern equipment to bake tasteful quality products our customers demand," it says.

The company advertises waffle cones, sugar cones, mini cones, wafers and cookies, offering the "largest pre-made waffle cone assortment in the industry." The mini waffle cones are "great" for ice cream shops, weddings, catered events and baby showers, it says, and shipping is free anywhere in the United States.

The website displays the "Virginia's Finest" seal, which is meant to signify that the products have met quality standards approved by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

"When you buy waffle cones from us, you're selecting top quality Virginia produced and processed products," the firm boasts. "We proudly display this seal of excellence as a sign of our commitment to quality and the highest ethical standards."

Elaine Lidholm, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture, declined to say whether the logo display by the company was legitimate, saying the department is currently investigating.

"By state law we are not allowed to comment on an open investigation," she said.

The FDA said some of the products it seized had been under embargo by the Virginia agriculture department.

The FDA initiated seizures on September 16 under warrants issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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