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Seafood Processors Told About Problems

If you get your Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, Tuna, Shad, King Mackerel, Amberjack, Dolphin (Mahi Mahi), or Wahoo from the Austin Fish Co. in Nags Head, NC or if you get Tuna Salad, Shrimp Scampi Dip, Creamy Seaford Salad with shrimp and surimi, or Smoked Salmon Dip from Garden-Fresh Foods Inc. in Milwaukee–you’ve got trouble.

Both Austin Fish and Garden-Fresh Foods, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are producing products that are adulterated or impure because they’ve been “prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they have been rendered injurious to health.”

Both seafood processors recently received “Warning Letters” from FDA that were made public this week.

On Dec. 1, FDA warned Austin Fish about controlling histamine formation from the time of death until the time when fish are placed on ice or some other form of refrigeration.

According to the Seafood Network Information Center:  “Scombrotoxin formation as a result of time/temperature abuse of certain species of fish can cause consumer illness. The illness is most closely linked to the development of histamine in these fish.”

“We recommend that all lots of fish received are accompanied by harvest vessel records which demonstrate that fish are placed on ice or other form of refrigeration at 40 degrees Fahrenheit within 12 hours of death,” wrote John Gridley, FDA’s Atlanta district director.

As an alternative, Gridley said Austin Fish might “consider histamine testing for each incoming lot to control histamine formation.”

FDA also said the North Carolina seafood-processing facility must record the internal temperatures of fish received from harvest vessels and limit the amount of decomposition in each incoming lot of fish to no more than 2.5 percent.

Austin Fish’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan “does not list the critical control point of refrigerated cooler storage for controlling the food safety hazard of histamine formation,” according to FDA.

Garden-Fresh’s HACCP plan was found lacking for its failure to adequately address controls for botulism.  In a Feb. 3 “Warning Letter” to Garden-Fresh, FDA said: “Your hazard analysis failed to identify Clostridium botulinum growth and toxin formation as a hazard during the thawing of unopened frozen vacuum-packed surimi.  Your thawing process takes a significant period of time which could result in Clostridium botulinum toxin formation in the absence of time and temperature controls.”

FDA said at a minimum the Milwaukee seafood processing company should do a better job of monitoring temperatures.

W. Charles Becoat, FDA’s Minneapolis District director, wrote the “Warning Letter” to Garden-Fresh.

Both seafood processors were given 15 working days to respond to FDA’s concerns.

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