As the case count continues to rise in the nationwide Salmonella outbreak linked to raw tuna, an inspection by U.S. health officials has revealed unsanitary conditions at the India facility that produced the implicated tuna product.
On April 19, about a week after authorities announced that a ground yellowfin tuna product imported by Moon Marine USA Corporation was the likely source of the Salmonella bacteria that had sickened 116 people, health inspectors began a 6 day review of the plant where the tuna – called Nakaochi Scrape – was processed. The resulting report – issued by FDA’s Department of Health and Human Services – details a series of 10 sanitation slip-ups.
Of the offences, four were violations of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) guidelines, which all foreign producers must comply with in order to export seafood to the United States. A HACCP plan identifies all points in the processing where contamination could occur and outlines steps to prevent pathogens from entering food.
In this case, inspectors noted that Moon Fishery – from which Moon Marine Co. sources its tuna – was missing the following steps from its plan:
– Controls during cutting, scraping and vacuum packaging to prevent the growth of pathogens and histamine
– Clostridium botulinium and allergen labeling on packaging
– Metal detection
– Monitoring for temperature on shipment vessels and testing for histamine when receiving tuna to make sure temperature wasn’t too high on the harvesting vessel
In addition to HACCP violations, HHS officials reported that the facility’s water and ice, both of which come into contact with fish during processing, were dirty. They also found product residue on the ceiling and on cutting knives and peeling paint above the processing line.
“Tanks used for storage of process waters have apparent visible debris, filth and microbiological contamination,” noted the inspectors. “There is no laboratory analysis for water used in ice manufacturing,” continued the report.
Inspectors also noted broken and cracked tiles in the floor and ceiling, which they observed can trap pathogens and make these surfaces hard to clean.
Overall, “You are not monitoring the condition or cleanliness of food contact surfaces,” said the investigators in the report, addressed to the company’s managing director, Dominic Sebastian.
Since the report was issued, Moon Marine has recalled tuna strips because the FDA isolated Salmonella in a sample that had not yet been distributed. The company agreed to recall frozen tuna strips that had already been shipped as a precautionary measure.
The outbreak involving the company’s tuna scrape has now sickened at least 258 people. Illnesses come from two different strains of Salmonella: Salmonella Bareilly, which has infected 247 of the victims, and Salmonella Nchanga, which has infected 11.
Authorities tested samples of unopened Nakaochi Scrape and found Salmonella Bareilly in 2 of them. The bacteria’s genetic fingerprint was indistinguishable from the type found in outbreak victims. Another specimen contained a type of Salmonella Nchanga, also indistinguishable from the Salmonella Nchanga contrated by victims.