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Korean-Owned StarKist Tuna Says ‘No’ To FDA

After crossing 3,400 miles of the Pacific Ocean last year to inspect a tuna cannery on American Samoa, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspector asked for copies of some records from the StarKist Co.

“Charlie the Tuna,” the company’s half-century old cartoon character, might have shown the man some “good taste,” but nobody from StarKist Co. would show the FDA employee the records.

StarKist, once a unit of San Francisco-based Del Monte Foods, is now owned by South Korea’s Dongwon Industries. The title papers for Pittsburgh-based StarKist went to Dongwon two years ago for $363 million. Dongwon F&B was already the world’s largest canned tuna business, but it wanted StarKist as a vehicle to make inroads into the U.S. market.

For America Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the United States, the new owners of StarKist have been bad news. StarKist employment on the South Pacific Island has been cut in half since the takeover. There is also a nasty dispute going between StarKist and Samoa’s power company over some property.

At the cannery inspection last Nov. 1-4, FDA found “serious violations” involving StarKist’s seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan and its production of low-acid canned foods. FDA said both the canned tuna and pouched packed tuna being produced by StarKist on American Samoa are “adulterated.”

Asked by Food Safety News about the warning letter, StarKist spokeswoman Mary Sestric said: “All StarKist products are safe and no product withdrawals are being initiated.”

“The quality and safety of all StarKist products continues to be our highest priority. We are committed to providing high-quality, nutritious products to consumers and look for ways to continually improve our products and processes.  StarKist continues to work closely with the FDA to that end,” she added.

During the November 2010  inspection, FDA personnel wanted to copy certain StarKist records, but the company declined.

FDA says that upon written demand during the course of an inspection, “the commercial processor shall permit the inspection and copying by such employee, all records of processing, deviations in processing, container closure inspections, and other records specified in part 113, to verify the adequacy of processing, the integrity of container closures, and the coding of the products.”

It sought without success, FDA said, to inspect and copy records covering the production of StarKist tuna in 3 oz. and 43 oz. pouches produced at the American Samoa processing plant between Aug. 1 and Nov. 1, 2010.

John A. Maxfield, director of quality assurance at StarKist Co. in Pittsburgh, wrote FDA after the inspection to argue that summary reports do not have to be produced by the company and are not part of the food safety program.

FDA said it wanted the records to determine StarKist’s actual percentage of defects under manufacturing conditions on certain of its lines.

“The information from these records is necessary to determine the capability of your filling and sealing equipment to consistently produce pouches of finished tuna fish with hermetic seals,” the warning letter says.  Investigators were reacting to the number of pouch defects they found during the November 2010 inspection.

FDA said that if StarKist does not promptly correct the violations, it will take further actions, including seizing adulterated products and/or enjoining the company from operating.  It could also refuse admission (to the U.S. mainland) of its tuna under “detention without physical examination.”

Under multiple HACCP violations, the FDA inspectors said they found several racks of thawed, pre-cooked loins still in their plastic vacuum packages staged in the processing room and stacked on production tables for further processing in air temperatures of 76 to 81 degrees.

The food safety hazard of Staphylococcus aureus can occur in temperatures of 70 degrees or more after three hours.

In comments about low acid canned foods, FDA says where double seams or glass containers are not used, detailed inspections and test intervals are required to ensure proper closure and hermetic seal production.

StarKist does not perform a meaningful destructive test on heat sealed pouches of tuna products at intervals of sufficient frequency under manufacturing conditions, FDA said.

Maxfield’s letter said StarKist uses both burst testing and tensile strength testing.  He said the company was following an industry standard for visual double seam checks, but would take FDA’s advice into account.

FDA said destructive tensile strength testing is not appropriate because the pouches being tested are not first filled with tuna fish.  Instead they are tested empty.

On the day FDA was sending its warning letter, Dongwon installed a new president at StarKist. In-Soo Cho, a graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a management history with Proctor and Gamble and Yum Restaurants International, took over.

The 65-year old StarKist brand has two processing facilities in Ecuador in addition to the one just inspected in American Samoa.

Mercury content of canned tuna frequently comes up as a food safety issue.  The problem is that mercury can accumulate in the body.  Both FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say women of child-bearing age, and young children should avoid fish that are high in mercury.

Others may want to pace their tuna consumption along the lines suggestedhere by the National Resources Defense Council.

© Food Safety News
  • Gabrielle Meunier

    If people knew about these violations, they wouldn’t buy from StarKist and then I’m sure StarKist would change their tune. I for one, will hesitate now before I buy StarKist.

  • Candy Anderson

    just another incident of America selling out to foreign countries for $$$. Does big business really care about us and our health or just their wallets? Ban the products from US soil. Thirty years ago I visited American Samoa and toured the Starkist plant. It was very clean and the Samoan workers were proud hard working people. The ladies that boned the fish were paid piece work (they were paid by the skeletal bones in the barrel at day’s end)

    • Derek H.

      Amen Candy!!! Love you.They don’t care about our health and the FDA/USDA can’t be trusted.It up to us Consumers to know what is going on.

      • WN

        I have one policy in my house. when it comes to food I buy American and organic.
        don’t be fooled by the low food prices, the catch is sometimes not what you expect.
        BUY AMERICAN, be and AMERICAN. TRUST OUR LOCAL FARMERS they appreciate our business.

        • Frank N.

          The other problem is that food may be raised here is the good USA but a lot of cases it is not processed here. Raised here, shipped overseas ofr processing than shipped back to us.

  • pepe gins

    Another wonderful Korean bit of news. If they’re not dumping thousands of pigs and other animals into pits to be buried alive, they are busy circumventing proper food preparation protection. I just decided not to buy a Hyundai. Pepe Gins

  • Robin

    I am gonna think twice about buying starkist from now on. I as well pay attention to anyone with issues of following FDA regs.

  • Maril

    Just opened a can of Starkist white tuna packed in water..pungent smell and no water..just a jelly like substance. very strange…If FDA wont enforce rules who do I report this to?purchased from a oklahoma walmart

  • Donna

    I am not buying Starkist any more. My solid white albacore was sludge with fatty globs in it. What in the world is going on? I haven’t been able to seriously trust a can of tuna for the past few years. They are all scummy liquid and chopped up floor sweepings, and now a bit of fat to boot. Yum. Add some mercury and it makes for a delicious sandwich. How do I get real tuna? You know, the kind we had as kids. Solid, white, swirls of hard pieces of fish sliced just right to fit in the can… And when you squeezed out the water the lid didn’t touch the other side.

  • Rich Kenyus

    I also just threw away two new cans of Starkist white albacore in water. Both were like sludge. I searched “Starkist Tuna bad” and found this article.
    Time to do more research and find a better source…I’ve eaten Starkist for most of my 44 years and those two cans stopped me from ever buying it again. This article only reinforces my decision.

  • nick

    more people need to know about this, read the labels , top left corner of the package cleary states were it comes from.I learned the hard way when i opened a can of starkist tuna and had a bad smell to it . Trader joes market were ill buy tuna from know on.

  • j

    Just wow… I just opened a can of Starkist Tuna and said to myself the quality of this tuna is now how it used to be. At least Del Monte could have made a public announcement that they the brand was being bought out. This stuff looks like poison.

  • Jacki

    Terrific! I eat Starkist tuna a few times a week.was wondering if it was Blue Fin tuna that has come up from Japan that have been affected by radiation? Starkist used to sell “Tuna Fillet” and that was worth the extra money, as you all have said the regular cans of light are scraps with 90% water. Have been buying the pouches since early this year. Any info is appreciated. Anyone eat the Genoa tuna?

  • VICKI RAMSEY

    I purchased a can of StarKist Albacore tuna $1.99 from E.W. James. The water was gelled and looked like thick white gravy. The tuna was yucky and not much of it. Mostly just thick gelly looking stuff in the can. I threw it away and was most disappointed in a name brand I always trusted. The expiration date was 2014- so an expired can was not the problem.

  • Essie Adrian

    I will definitely not be buying any StarKist products. In fact I don’t find any canned seafood that is not from China or Thailand. They poison our children with lead poisoning and now with their food. We should boycott the whole group

  • Diane Casazza

    Grew up on starkist. Just bought 3 cans of albacore that was watery mush. Had to use a strainer to get the water out. I recently tried a Fresh and Easy brand tuna. Was awsome. No more starkist.

  • MARCEY

    marcey 7-14-2013 THIS IS SAD WHEN YOU HAVE TO LOOK @THE CAN OF TUNA TO SEE WHERE IT CAME FROM.STARKIST SOLD TO CHINA LETS GO VIRAL

  • Aivilo Truoccm

    All brand of tuna have putrid smells that even my kitties will not eat it. Most tuna and fish comes from the Pacific. I stopped eating tuna right after Fukishima. I stopped eating any shellfish or fish when I was thirteen. I used to clam dig when I was a kid. The Pacific is poisoned now just like the Gulf from the Corexit that was used on the oil. Please if you want to stay healthy leave all seafood alone now. God Bless

  • Paul King

    I used to like starkist tuna just opened a can after reading the comments. this tuna is terrible and should not allowed to be sold in U.S. Almost ruined my meal but found a expired can of bumble bee tuna. saved the day.

  • PCDoctors4u2

    Since Nancy Pelosi’s husband owns bumble Bee Tuna it comes as no surprise that the full power of the US government has been brought to bear to affect market forces in the tuna market in America by eliminating the competition by any means possible including lying about the quality of tuna from one source without analyzing all sources!.

    • hot rod happy

      Just for the record, Pelosi’s husband does not own Bumble Bee. Pelosi is/was a shareholder in the Del Monte company, which previously owned the StarKist business. Check your facts before you put out information that may be damaging to innocent folks.

  • Peaches

    Opened a can of Starkist Solid White Tuna. It looked gray? Very odd smell. Totally disgusting. Date on can was for 2017. How is this happening? Where are quality control standards? Will never buy this tuna again.

  • Jerry from TEXAS

    Why doesn’t the US stop trading with countries that ship us bad food, and label the package
    in which country it came from. I’m sure if the US was fair tom our framer’s and fisherman we wouldn’t have this problem …………

  • Derek H.

    All this Mumbo,Jumbo,and still i have no easy feeling that this Product is safe.I also conclude that i see no other reports since 2010! Not good,at this point,can i get back? Problably not.The sad thing is i love Tuna,but i guess i gonna take a loss,because i feel it’s unsafe!!! Look at Fukashema,where this Tuna is coming from,not good.Also Proctor & Gamble is not safe and please investigate all Baby Products.If you don’t know by now,better look into Agenda 21 and follow the info!

  • AmazedHuman

    I’m thinking no more Starkist in this household from now on. Nobody actually trusts the FDA anymore – but in this case, I’d say they are on the right track. And people, I’ve got to I buy NO food that I find is from anyplace other than the USA. No food from China, Thailand, Korea. Poison in my food is not something I’m either going to pay for or consume. And people are finding out that ‘cheap’ is not necessarily the best buy, it could be their ‘last’ buy.

  • Jones789

    I have just purchased my last pouch of StarKist Tuna. I’m buying fresh Tuna from now on and cooking it myself.

  • kmw

    So I just opened a can of StarKist tuna and thought it smelled ‘off’. I actually got scared, you know what ‘off’ smell can mean for us women :) . I went ahead and made it and handed it to my son, which I now feel HORRIBLE about! I am weird sometimes with tuna and milk, so I just figured it was me being weird. My son took 2 bites, and said “Mom did you put something else in this?” I said “no just mayo”. He looked at me disgusted and said “And that is what you always put in it?” At this point I realized it wasn’t me being weird, but the tuna really did stink and taste bad as well. I proceeded to open 3 more cans all the same. Luckily, I had a can of Target’s brand Market Pantry, that was actually solid white. Honestly, ever since the “name” brands have added all the premium, prime filet crap, I have felt like their Solid White quality has gone down. I have found that the store brands are really good, if not better than the name brands. This was always one of the areas I was scared to venture into, as far as store brands, but I am actually really glad I did! No more Starkist for us!

  • AMERICAN

    i will never buy starfish tuna again. why can’t th us stop buy from china and every other country and buy USA PRODUCTS. DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE TO BUY FROM THEM WHEN WE CAN GROW AND MAKE OUR OWN FOOD AND CLOTHES. HOW SAD WE HAVE GOTTEN AND HOW SICK WE ARE TO NOT SUPPORT OUR OWN COUNTRY AND GIVE OUR PEOPLE JOBS WHAT A GOVERMENT WE HAVE SAD THEY ARE? I JUST THREW AWAY THREE CANS OF STARFISH TUNA COULD NOT EAT THE TRASH

  • Aivilo Truoccm

    I do not buy tuna at all for a long time. My cats will not even eat the stuff.

  • John Funk

    GREED AND CORRUPTION IS ALL THE AMERICAN COMPANIES HAVE BECOME!!! WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE THE CEO OF MOST MARKETS MAKE LARGE PROFITS AND LIE AND STEAL TO THE HARD WORKING EMPLOYEES

  • John Funk

    Greed !!!

  • Charlie

    I just looked at a can of Starkist Tuna and did not see anywhere the country of origin, just something about distributed by Starkist, Pittsburgh, Pa. Kinda deceptive. The FDA should require more complete info so you can make an informed decision.

    • Jane

      I did the same thing–it is deceptive! So many for products coming from China and Korea, etc–we should know this and decide for ourselves if we want to buy it or not!

  • Karen J. Rochon

    This report is four years old. I have been using Starkist tuna for over seven years and have never found anything but delicious tuna. Starkist is the only company that uses soybean or olive oil in their canned tuna. I do not like the taste of tuna canned in water no matter what the brand. Recently, I used their tuna canned in olive oil and found it to be tastier than that canned in soybean oil. I trust Korean standards in any food products as I know them to be perfectionists and very health conscious. I think another FDA inspector needs to approach the owners of the company to arrange to inspect specifically what applies to any production issues. If there are problems, I am sure the owners would want to know in order to correct them.

  • RMB

    I had eaten Starkist Tuna for about over 3 months, about a
    month ago I broke out with itchy hives. I was thinking it must be a minor contamination
    from the Sunkist Tuna in vegetable oil, I recovered after 4 days. Once again, I
    had Sunkist Tuna a week ago and will certainly be my last! Presently and
    already 5 days, I broke out with hives again and more severe, this time it’s
    not only a case of swollen itchy hives, but my face is peeling from what I
    would say I am recovering finally! After waking up the last three days with a
    swollen face, but my cabs to my toes are still swollen. I wouldn’t aim this
    issue with South Korea or the States, but I would urge them to take action
    against Sunkist immediately or lives can be stake.

  • Horus

    Where’s the outrage over US corporations who are doing far more damage to Americans via the food supply?

  • Susan Sherman

    Ever since I heard about this problem I have stopped buys Starkist. I tell every person I know not to buy Starkist. If you want good tuna go to Costco and buy their “pole caught” product in a can. It is organismic!! Gotta try it. You will never buy anything else again.

  • Marisa

    I purchased the 3oz cans of StarKist tuna. While eating i crunched on something hard. My first thought was its a bone, the 2nd crunch i spit it out to find a small piece of glass. I put it in vinegar to test it and see if it was stuvite. If it was stuvite it would have dissolved in the vinegar. Several days later that hard clear glass like substance is still sitting there. this tell me it is glass. I’m calling the FDA

  • lori

    I can’t believe this! That explains the unknown trash in the tuna. I’ll not be buying this brand ever again..

  • sdixperkins

    didn’t Nancy Pelosi’s husband control this company?