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Seafood Processors, Importers Face FDA Scrutiny

A half dozen seafood processing facilities and importers around the country are working to get back into compliance with federal regulations after their food-handling practices were questioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in formal warning letters.

An April 13 warning letter to Star Food Products Inc., located in Weston, FL, alleged “serious violations” at the fish importer’s facilities. The letter said the importer was not in compliance with seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control (HACCP) point regulations with regard to processing tuna.

FDA claimed Star had not provided the required assurances that the fish or fishery products it brings into the country were processed under conditions equivalent to those followed by domestic processors, so the company’s Scombrotoxin-forming fish were deemed “adulterated” by FDA.

An April 28 warning letter to Captain’s Fine Foods, LLC in Tampa said the company’s pasteurized crabmeat and King (Spanish) Mackerel are considered adulterated because they were not processed under a proper seafood HACCP plan.

Captain’s has been working with FDA since it was inspected last Feb. 23 through March 2.  It has installed a continuous temperature monitoring system to control Clostridium botulinum, but the warning letter asks for documentation for the new system.

The company also provided FDA with the corrective actions it would take at receiving points for both crab and mackerel, but the agency replied that it still had some concerns.

“We acknowledge in your response (to the inspection report) you state that the deviation occurs at receiving and therefore it is the primary processor’s responsibility and not yours,”  FDA wrote.  “However, for hazards such as scombrotoxin formation and pathogen growth and potential toxin formation, FDA has placed the burden of assuring the safety of seafood that has been transported from one processor to a subsequent processor on the processor who receives the product.”

FDA said the receiving processor is in a position to reject the shipment entirely if there is a food safety problem.

A May 2 warning letter went to Dani Jacq Inc, based in Baltimore.  It does business under the name Home Fresh Foods Company.

FDA found its ready-to-eat tuna pasta salads, ready-to-eat shrimp pasta salads, crab soup, and corn chowder to be considered adulterated under the law because of problems with the processor’s seafood HACCP plan.

The warning letter says Home Fresh does not have a HACCP plan for controlling pathogen growth, histamine formation, allergens and food intolerance substances.

Among the specifics cited by FDA, Home Fresh was told it did not list a critical control point for cooking, filling and storage of its finished product for shrimp and corn chowder.

FDA also questioned Home Fresh’s temperature management, saying  the company had disconnected the continuous temperature monitors of walk-in coolers and gone to visual readings.

A May 4 warning letter to San Francisco-based Southeast Asian Food Product also raises what FDA called “serious violations” of seafood HACCP  and Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations.

Southeast Asian produces refrigerated, vacuum-packaged fish cakes and fish balls.

In the warning letter, FDA acknowledged that Southeast Asian Food had revised its seafood HACCP after the company went through federal inspection in January.

“Your response to the current inspection does not adequately address the deviations observed. The deviations listed in the warning letter related to your fish cake products are based on our evaluation of your revised HACCP plan,” FDA wrote.  “We recommend that you consider hiring a qualified consultant who has successfully completed training in the application of seafood HACCP principles to assist you in preparing and implementing a written HACCP plan.”  

Southeast Asian’s HACCP plan does not address how to control Clostridium botulinumtoxin and pathogen growth and toxin formation, FDA said.

The Omar Seafood Corp., based in Miami, received a May 9 warning letter, advising it of “serious violations” causing its whole gutted fish, including snapper and grouper, to be deemed adulterated.

FDA said Omar Seafood “did not implement an affirmative step for the importation of whole gutted snapper and grouper imported from foreign processor…”  Omar Seafood provided FDA with a copy of its foreign processors HACCP plan, but it was in Spanish.

FDA requires such documents be provided in English. “We requested this additional documentation from you on March 2, 2011, yet you have failed to respond,” the warning letter says.

FDA said if Omar Seafood does not “promptly correct this violations, the agency will consider seizing its products and/or enjoining the company from further violations.

Seafood processors and importers are given 15 business days to bring their operations into compliance by correcting violations described in the warning letters.  The warning letters were made public last week by FDA.

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