Federal officials haven’t been able to confirm whether a company has effectively recalled raw fish potentially contaminated with Listeria. Consequently the FDA is warning restaurants and retailers against using Topway Enterprises Inc. or Kazy’s Gourmet ready-to-eat seafood products.

The implicated products, including tuna and salmon, are intended to be eaten raw and might be incorporated into sushi, according to the alert Thursday from the Food and Drug Administration. Topway Enterprises Inc. shipped the raw fish to restaurants in Texas and Louisiana from July 10 to July 13.

There is concern that some of the recalled fish could still be in restaurants. Listeria monocytogenes is not killed by freezing.

“These products are typically sold fresh and do not have a long shelf life, though they can be frozen to extend the shelf life,” according to the FDA notice.

The FDA action comes months after inspectors found multiple problems at the Topway Enterprises manufacturing plant. Of 53 test samples collected at the facility in February, 31 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes. A followup inspection in June showed problems remained. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) performed the followup inspection for FDA.

During the June inspection, four of the environmental samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes and state inspectors observed continuing sanitation and seafood safety compliance issues. Topway Enterprises Inc. had yet to completely implement the corrective actions the firm had agreed to in February 2019. The FDA was notified of these findings on July 3, 2019 by the state.

“On July 3 the FDA and state partners notified the firm of the recent environmental sampling results. Topway Enterprises Inc. agreed to voluntarily cease operations and recall products. They also agreed to provide the FDA with any corrective action planned, prior to resuming operations. However, on July 10, the FDA became aware that Topway Enterprises Inc. resumed production at its facility, without implementing adequate corrective actions to address the risks that were identified,” the FDA reported.

“On July 11, in discussions with the company owner, the FDA advised that the company cease operations until additional corrective action is performed, and no contamination can be detected at the facility. 

“Although the firm committed to recalling ready-to-eat seafood products, including tuna and salmon for raw consumption, FDA has been unable to confirm whether consignees of the recalled food were notified of the firm’s recall and were able to take action to remove existing product from the market. As a result, FDA is publishing this Safety Alert to notify businesses who may have received product from Topway Enterprises Inc. from July 10 to July 13.”

Recommendations for restaurants and retailers
Restaurants and retailers that have received product from Topway Enterprises Inc. between July 10, 2019 and July 13, 2019 should discard the product and take appropriate action to ensure customers are not served the potentially contaminated food.

Food service operators who have handled potentially contaminated food in their facilities should:

  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
  • To prevent the growth of L. monocytogenes, set the refrigerator to 40 degrees F (4 degrees C), and set the freezer to 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C).
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.

Unlike most bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes can grow at refrigeration temperatures and freezing will not eliminate or reduce the pathogen. The FDA recommends that retailers implement time and temperature controls to reduce the opportunity for the growth of L. monocytogenes.  The pathogen can also cross-contaminate other food that has been cut and served on the same cutting board or stored in the same area. Retailers should check with your state for specific guidance. More information can be found in the FDA Food Code 2017.

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop. 

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses. 

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth.

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