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Fish Markets Get Botulism Warning

Oregon’s 121-year old Newman’s Fish Markets Inc. received a warning letter last Dec. 7 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over violations at its seafood processing facility in Portland.   

It concerns Newman’s hot smoked, vacuum-packed, refrigerated salmon; sturgeon; escolar; tuna and black cod.

FDA said fish processors must have seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans for hot smoked, vacuum-packed, refrigerated sturgeon to control the food safety hazard of Clostridium botulinum and environmental chemical contaminants.

During an inspection last July 29, FDA said it watched Newman’s smoke a batch of fish that included sturgeon. Company managers told the inspector they would freeze the vacuum packaged products to prevent the formation of deadly botulism.

Newman’s said it was planning to use stickers to urge consumers to keep the packages frozen and to thaw them under refrigeration right before use. FDA said Clostridium botulinum is a “reasonability likely hazard” for vacuum packaged fish, especially those that lack clear labeling.

FDA expressed similar concerns about Newman’s smoked salmon.

The agency said Newman’s must conduct or have conducted for it a hazard analysis for each kind of fish and fishery product that it produces to determine whether there are food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur and to have a HACCP plan that, at a minimum, lists the food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur.

The plan must address “any biological, chemical, or physical property that may cause the food to be unsafe for human consumption.” 

Newman’s HACCP plan for hot smoked black cod does not list the food safety hazard of Clostridium botulinum at the “Refrigerated Storage” control point. 

Newman’s Sept. 7 response included a revised HACCP plan for hot smoked, vacuum-packaged refrigerated escolar and tuna, but for not black cod. 

The seafood processors’ revised HACCP plan for escolar and tuna does not identify the hazard of histamine formation.  FDA said the company eliminated “brining” as a control.

“Although the formation of Clostridium botulinum may not be a significant hazard for this product if it is labeled to be held frozen and thawed under refrigeration immediately before use, histamine formation is considered a food safety hazard that is reasonably likely to occur at the “brining” CCP, the warning letter said.

FDA said Newman’s lacked monitoring procedures for minimum salt content, and ratio of brine to fish. The agency also said Newman’s does not list  “the critical control point of thawing for controlling the food safety hazard of histamine formation. According to your hazard analysis you are controlling this hazard through refrigeration and icing.”

FDA gave Newman’s 15 working days to respond to its concerns.

Newman’s was founded in Eugene, OR in 1890.

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