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Fish Importer Must Take Steps to Avoid Botulism

A Bronx seafood processor-importer is not doing enough to prevent botulism in its smoked fish product.

Botulism is a potentially deadly infection caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Gold Coast Trading Co.’s “smoked fish is adulterated, in that it has been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In an Oct. 4 warning letter to Gold Coast, FDA said the Bronx company does not have an adequate seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan.  FDA said as an importer of fish or fishery products, Gold Coast must comply with HACCP standards.

Among the “significant violations” FDA found at Gold Coast were:

-Its HACCP plan for Mudfish, Smoked Mackerel, Akwaabi, Broche, Smoked Tilapia has critical limits for receiving and storing smoked fish that are not adequate to control Clostridium botulinum or histamine formation.

-The plan does not list smoked herring imported by the company.

-It has not performed a hazard analysis for smoked uneviscerated fish (under 5 inches in length).

FDA considers uneviscerated fish that have been salt-cured, dried, or smoked, as well as products made from them, to be adulterated.  FDA said Gold Coast should write an HACCP plan saying that it will not accept uneviscerated fish because they are inherently unsafe, whether stored at ambient temperature, refrigerated, or frozen, and where they are packaged in air, vacuum or modified atmosphere.

“When conducting your hazard analysis, your firm should assess those steps that are reasonably likely to result in Clostridium botulinum growth and toxin formation, and histamine formation, due to time/temperature abuse,” the warning letter said.

“For example, receipt of refrigerated products will likely be critical to ensure that proper temperatures were maintained during the transit period to your facility,” it added.  “In addition, a monthly record review is insufficient, FDA recommends a review of records within one (1) week of the monitoring activity.”

FDA also recommends around-the-clock temperature monitoring of finished product storage.

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