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FDA Letter Helps Explain Salmon Recall

A May 10 warning letter to Brooklyn’s Service Smoked Fish Corporation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released this week fills in some more details about last November’s recall.

Service Smoked Fish last Nov. 19 recalled its Smoked Nova Salmon for possible Listeria contamination.  At the time, the company said the recall occurred after FDA sampling that found bacteria in finished product.

Service Smoked Fish ceased production of Smoked Nova Salmon, and no illnesses were associated with the recall.

The newly released warning letter says FDA inspectors were present inside the seafood processing plant from Nov. 5-27, 2009.

They took samples of finished cold smoked nova salmon for laboratory tests, which were positive for Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections.

“Further analyses, via pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) indicated the strains of L.M found in the finished product samples were indistinguishable from the strains found in the environmental samples,” FDA says in the warning letter.

“Finding that the strains are indistinguishable is evidence that links the environment as a source or vehicle for the finished product contamination,” it continued.

FDA acknowledges the company’s cooperation, including its voluntary recall and destruction of the salmon produced between Nov. 1-18, and its written promise to make corrections including training, cleaning, and sampling.

“While we acknowledge these intended corrective actions, your firm should continue to perform appropriate cleaning and sampling and should consider adopting an L.M. sampling and monitoring program on a regular basis to prevent similar future situations,” Ronald M. Pace, FDA’s New York district director, wrote.

Smoked Nova Salmon was distributed through retail food stores in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut areas in addition to Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Portland, OR.  It was packaged in various sizes of vacuum-packed clear plastic bags.

FDA found “serious violations” of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations at the Brooklyn facility.

“Accordingly, your cold smoked, ready-to-eat seafood products are adulterated, in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health,” Pace wrote.

The seafood processor “must conduct a hazard analysis to determine whether there are food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur,” according to FDA.

Service Smoked Fish’s “HACCP plan for ‘Cold Smoked Seafood Products’ does not list a critical control point for thawing of the frozen fish to control pathogen growth, FDA said. “Specifically, our investigator noted that your firm receives frozen fish and conducts a thawing process prior to brining and cold smoking.”

FDA recommends the seafood processor employ strict temperature controls and continuous monitoring and recording of both time and temperature readings.

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