Ready-to-eat, smoked fish and fishery products produced by Michel Cordon Bleu Inc. in Los Angeles from such raw fish as Florida salmon and Idaho trout and sold to restaurants, retailers, hotels and cruise ships are not safe for human consumption, according to a federal court action.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found the company’s fish and fishery products are adulterated as defined y federal law. Consequently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this week filed a civil action against both Michel Cordon Bleu Inc. and owner Michel G. Blanchet.
DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch asked the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for a permanent injunction to shut down Bleu’s operations at 3625 South Western Avenue in Los Angeles.
In an 11-page complaint, DOJ attorneys say the seafood processor has a history of violating federal food safety regulations that began in 1998 and continued through July 5 to Aug. 2, 2016, its most recent FDA inspection.
Among the Form FDA-483 inspection observations noted a year ago were:
- Failure to manufacture, package and store food under conditions and controls necessary to minimize the potential for microorganism growth and contamination, including Listeria monocytogenes;
- Failure to monitor the sanitation conditions and practices, resulting in findings of Listeria monocytogenes in the company’s processing areas;
- Failure to develop the verification procedures and frequencies listed in the HAACP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) plan by federal regulation to ensure that the HACCP plan is adequate to control food safety hazards, and is implemented efficiently; and
- Failure to implement the monitoring and verification procedures listed in the HACCP plan.
FDA found “deficient cleaning and sanitation practices” at the Bleu facility has led to the contamination of food preparation surfaces with pathogenic bacteria. Strict in-plant measures are necessary to control the spread of Listeria monocytogenes in the seafood processing plant and to protect human health.
FDA ‘s environmental sampling showed Listeria monocytogenes contamination exists in multiple locations throughout the Bleu facility.
The complaint charges Bleu with a “history of non-compliance.” FDA has tried to bring the company into compliance with inspections, regulatory meetings, and warning letters without successs.
At a 2005 regulatory meeting, the company said it was committed to building a “culture of compliance,” promising to adhere to a HACCP plan. It’s not, however, lived up to that promise.
Bleu prepares, processes, packs, holds and distributes refrigerated vacuum-packed, ready-to-eat cured, cold and hot smoked fish and fishery products including smoked salmon, trout, and sturgeon. Distributors sell most of the product.
DOJ says Bleu’s seafood products present a hazard to human health because of the potential for contamination from Clostridium Botulinum (C. bot) and Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono).
The complaint says Bleu and Blanchet, who is both the owner and company president, did not respond to FDA’s many concerns about the facility’s problems.
DOJ wants U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to issue a permanent injunction ordering Blue to “cease receiving, preparing, processing, packing, labeling, holding, and distributing food at or from the facility or any other location nor or in the future.” The government also wants the judge to authorize FDA to inspect the plant and all the company’s records.
DOJ filed the civil action on Oct. 3, and the defendants have not yet responded Discovery motions in the Central District are heard by magistrate judges. Assigned to this case is federal Magistrate Judge Alka Sagar.
While government action to permanently enjoin a company from operating is rare, seafood processors are frequently targets of FDA warning letters for failure to take corrective actions after inspections.
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