On Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, federal government officials seized approximately 5,000 cases of frozen, processed crab products manufactured by Rome Packing Company Inc. of East Providence, RI, because the crab meat is suspected to be contaminated with harmful bacteria. In a complaint unsealed today, the government alleged that Rome Packing, formerly based in East Providence, R.I., prepared, packed, and processed Jonah crab products in a facility contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogenic bacterium that, once it contaminates foods, can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening illness. Recalled crab meatAccording to court documents, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected Rome Packing’s facility on six occasions and observed that the company’s cooking process for crabs did not adequately control temperatures to prevent the growth of pathogens. Environmental swab samples collected from three areas of Rome Packing’s facility allegedly tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. The inspection also allegedly revealed poor sanitary practices and conditions in the company’s facility that may cause cross-contamination between finished and raw food products. The U.S. Marshals Service seized the crab products Tuesday from cold storage warehouses in Lakeville, MA, which were being monitored by FDA officials. Rome Packing is now in receivership, according to court documents. The company recalled its Ocean’s Catch brand of minced crab meat in May 2014 and its Ocean’s Catch brand of crab legs and other crab meat products in October 2014, both times for possible Listeria contamination. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act authorizes the government to seize and condemn food products if they are prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions that may have caused the products to become contaminated with filth or to pose a threat to consumer health. “In partnership with the FDA, we are working to ensure food safety,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “Lax sanitary practices in the preparation and storage of food products endanger public health. Where necessary, we will intervene to prevent contaminated food from reaching consumers.” “Thanks to the collaboration between the FDA and the Department of Justice, we have ensured that the adulterated crab produced by Rome Packing doesn’t make its way to consumers,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. “The ‎duties of the United States Marshals Service vary in scope and nature and include enforcing all federal court orders such as the one executed today with our partners from the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said United States Marshal John Gibbons of the District of Massachusetts. “Preparing and processing tainted food products for sale to consumers is unacceptable, and the United States Marshals Service will do its part in protecting our nation’s consumers.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)