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Violations Spotted at Seafood Processors

Refrigerated tuna salad and raw shucked scallops in Grand Rapids, fish sauce and frozen salted fish in San Jose, and refrigerated pasteurized crabmeat and fresh tuna in Boston are among the latest seafood products not being processed properly, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During inspections of three seafood processing facilities, FDA found enough violations to determine their products were adulterated, as defined by federal law.

Those conclusions are found in warning letters sent to the three seafood processors since last Feb. 24, and made public this week by FDA.  Inspections of seafood processors frequently result in warning letters.  

The violations FDA identifies must be corrected within 15 working days to avoid future actions by the agency.    

A Feb. 24 warning letter to Gordon Food Service Inc. in Grand Rapids said FDA found the company’s seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan to be inadequate.

Specifically, Gordon’s HACCP plan for refrigerated tuna salad did not list “the food safety hazards of scrombrotoxin (histamine) formation, and pathogen growth and toxin formation.”

The Grand Rapids company responded to FDA’s Form 483 (post) inspection report with a letter that said its tuna salad is made with cooked tuna and that there are “no hazards for histamine production in cooked tuna.” 

FDA took exception to that assertion, saying that once cans or pouches of tuna are opened, they are exposed to recontamination from air, processing environment, and the inclusion of other ingredients in the preparation of the company’s tuna salad product, which can make pathogens and pathogens growth a reasonably likely hazard in the ready-to-eat product.

In addition, Gordon’s HACCP plan for raw shucked scallops did not address the food safety hazard of Clostridium botulinum.  In its Form 483 response letter, the seafood processor says the growth that can cause deadly botulism is not a concern because the scallop meat is packed in a paint can-like container.

FDA responded in its warning letter: “Unless your firm has scientific evidence to show that the oxygen transmission through the led seam is sufficient to inhibit Clostridium botulinum growth and toxin formation throughout the container during time-temperature abuse, or that the spoilage of the product in these containers will occur in advance of toxin formation during the time-temperature abuse, then your firm needs to control the hazard with an effectively implemented written HACCP plan.”

Gordon’s will also have to correct a number of other issues raised by FDA, from sanitation to record keeping to monitoring and storage.

A Feb. 28 warning letter to Evershing International Trading Inc. in San Jose cited two significant violations for the seafood importer.

First, it had no product specifications for the fish sauce it imports from Thailand.  Second, it failed to maintain a copy, in English, of a written guarantee from its foreign processor that the fish it imports was processed in accordance with FDA seafood HACCP regulations.

FDA demanded the company produce the importer verification records, along with other documents.

Finally, in a March 2 warning letter to Four Sea’s Inc. in Boston, FDA said canned pasteurized crabmeat was in transit for an extended period of time without continuous temperature monitoring. 

Temperatures during transit cannot exceed 40 degrees.

Four Sea’s monitoring procedures that rely “visual” examination were inadequate for controlling the hazard of scombrotoxin formation for fresh tuna, FDA said.  And FDA is concerned about the company’s monitoring when its product is received and stored.

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