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Feds target smoked fish operation once on Oprah’s favorite list

Federal officials are seeking a court order to stop a smoked fish operation from selling food because of repeated Listeria problems at its Westchester County, NY, facility.

Smokehouse of NY Oprah packagingKnown as The Smokehouse of New York, the business owned by Panagiota Soublis is in the municipality of Mamaroneck, NY. It uses Oprah Winfrey’s face on its much of its packaging because she included one of its products on her 2014 “My Favorite Things” list. The company has retail locations and sells its products nationwide on the internet.

In April this year the company recalled 10 smoked fish products after inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration found Listeria monocytogenes in its warehouse. The April 12 recall notice states the company shut down operations and was working with the FDA to resolve the situation.

The company, founded in 2011 and initially known as La Maree Smokehouse, recalled several smoked fish products in 2011 because FDA tests showed finished product was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. At that same March 2011 inspection, environmental swab tests of food-contact and non-food contact surfaces also tested positive for the potentially deadly pathogen.

In August 2011 the FDA issued a warning letter to the company, citing failure to correct Listeria-related problems discovered during inspections in February and March that year.

“Your corrective actions do not correct the cause of the deviation, e.g., discontinue use of supplier or carrier until evidence is obtained that transportation practices have changed,” according to the 2011 warning letter.

The FDA archives show the agency did not issue a closeout letter in relation to the violations observed in 2011. Reports related to FDA inspections in the following years, including the visit earlier this year that spurred the April recall, have not been made public by FDA.

Brett Portier, director of operations for the smokehouse operation and husband of the owner, confirmed to the New York Daily News on Tuesday that the company is currently working with FDA to resolve Listeria issues.

“We are working side by side with the Food and Drug Administration right now … and there was no Listeria found in any finished product at time of inspection, just on floors,” Portier told the newspaper, adding that current problems only involve Listeria in the physical plant, not the fish.

“That was in 2011, but since 2011, we haven’t had listeria in any finished project, we’ve never had any illnesses or deaths reported.”

Neither the FDA not the U.S. Department of Justice would comment on the situation Tuesday when contacted by Food Safety News. However, both the New York Daily News and the New York Post reported the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York had filed a civil action in federal court seeking an order to shut down the business until it proves its facility and products are safe.

As of 11 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday the federal court database was not showing any actions filed recently regarding the Smokehouse of New York. However, there is often lag time of 24 to 48 hours after documents are filed before they are available online.

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