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Processors from CA to NJ Struggle to Get It Right

Three more seafood processors have gotten their operations snarled in regulatory waters, netting them warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Fish Brothers Inc., located on the northern coast of California since 1984, says it’s known for its small batch approach to fish smoking.  But after an inspection last Aug. 10-13, FDA found Fish Brothers vacuum-packaged hot-smoked seafood products, including its chum salmon and albacore tuna, to be adulterated.

FDA said the problem was Fish Brothers seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, which caused the company to work on a corrective action plan.  However, in the Nov. 3 warning letter FDA said the corrections do not resolve the problem of controlling histamine formation at each critical control point.

Fish Brothers was also doing a poor job of controlling pests, the FDA said.  Inspectors found both flies and spider webs inside the plant, including in processing, packaging and raw ingredient storage areas.  About 50 dead flies were attached to a fly strip hanging in the processing area.

FDA also found employees were using sanitizers at concentrations greater than recommended on product labels.  “When exceeding the manufacturer’s limitations for use, the sanitizer may be considered an adulterant in foods or food contact surfaces,” the warning letter said.  “Proper training of employees responsible for mixing and/or use of sanitizing solutions is essential.”

Across the country, sales by New Jersey’s Bobby Chez Inc. of his Famous Jumbo Lump Crabcake to restaurants and supermarkets are said to exceed 30,000 a week.

But in a Nov. 17 warning letter, FDA said Bobby Chez also has “serious violations” of seafood HACCP regulations. 

 “Accordingly, your crab cakes (par-cooked), crab cakes (non par-cooked), seafood salad, lobster pot pies, lobster mashed potatoes, shrimp puffs, and coconut shrimp are adulterated, in that they have been prepared, packed or held under conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health,” the warning letter said.

FDA inspected Bobby Chez Inc. last Oct. 1, finding it did not have HACCP plans for seafood salad and crab cakes (non par-cooked) and shrimp puffs and coconut shrimp to control pathogen growth and toxin formation.  

The agency outlined what Bobby Chez must do to put an adequate HACCP plan in place.  Actions it has taken to date to make corrections were called “not appropriate.”

Bobby Chez was the owner and chef for Chez Robert, three popular South Jersey restaurants that operated from 1976 to 1995.

At Barnegat Light, NJ, the Lighthouse Marina Partnership is more known for its commercial fishing supplies, including fuel and slip rentals, than for its seafood processing.  

FDA has inspected the seafood processing facility that is also part of the Lighthouse Marina and that resulted in an Oct. 15 warning letter over concerns about its seafood HACCP for tuna, bonito, and bluefish.

According to the warning letter, Lighthouse Marina failed to follow monitoring procedures and frequencies when unloading vessels to make sure decomposition does not take any more than 2.5 percent of the entire lot.  

FDA said Lighthouse Marina’s corrective action plan to “add ice” was inappropriate because taking such a step does not ensure that adulterated product will not enter commerce.

The three seafood processors were each given 15 working days to respond to FDA with details on how they are going to correct the violations.

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