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FDA Says BC Cannery Retort Operation Needs Fixing

A Nanaimo cannery on Canada’s Vancouver Island could see its canned sockeye salmon blocked from entry to the United States if it does not quickly fix its low-acid canning process.

St. Jeans Cannery Ltd. in British Columbia received a Sept. 28 warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about canned sockeye processors “serious deviations from the low-acid canned food (LACF) regulations” imposed on importers to the U.S.

FDA inspected the low-acid canned food facility at Nanaimo last July 19-21.  

Failure to comply with the low-acid regulations, which are designed to prevent botulism in canned foods, gives FDA the basis for imposing emergency permit control procedures that may include stopping the entry of the canned sockeye salmon at the U.S. border.

The cannery’s retort operation is where the low-acid regulations are being violated, according to FDA.

Retort operations, usually steam-based, are the processes used to sterilize food products.  Steam can be applied through direct or indirect heating methods, including using water immersion.

In observing the retort operation last July 20 at St. Jeans, FDA said the operator was partially closing the retort bleeder valves located on top of the retort and on the thermometer well.    The bleeders remained partially closed during the cook cycle, although regulations demand they remain open during the entire process.

As a foreign operation, the BC cannery has 30 working days to respond to FDA with the specific measures it is taking to correct its retort process.   FDA asked St. Jeans to provide specific documentation on how it is going to correct the cannery’s retort operation.

FDA threatened St. Jeans with further action if it does not comply in a timely manner, including the possibility of issuing an import alert on its canned salmon.   That action would allow FDA to detain the products without physical examination.

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