Botulism Fish Warning from FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just issued a warning to consumers and retailers regarding the risk of <"">botulism from ungutted, salt-cured alewives—also known as gaspereaux—fish, which may have been sold in Florida.  The warning advises retailers and food service operators not to offer these ungutted, salt-cured alewives/gaspereaux fish originating from Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd., CAP-PELÈ, New Brunswick, Canada.  The fish may be contaminated with the Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) toxin, which is the bacteria that causes botulism.  Consumers are warned not to consume the contaminated fish.

The fish were imported into the United States from Canada and shipped to the following Florida distributors:  Quirch Foods Inc., Den-Mar Exports LLC, Dolphin Fisheries Inc., and Labrador & Son Food Products Inc.  The ungutted, salt-cured alewives/gaspereaux fish were packed in 30-pound, white plastic pails with green plastic lids, with the brand name “Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd.,” and the phrase “Product of Canada” appearing on the side of the pails.  One hundred seventy-three (173) 30-pound pails of the fish were distributed and may have been repacked or sold loose by retailers in Florida.

The FDA notes that any ungutted fish that is over five inches in length and is salt-cured, dried, or smoked, such as the ungutted, salt-cured alewives/gaspereaux fish, is considered adulterated because it could contain the C. botulinum toxin. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services discovered the tainted ungutted alewives/gaspereaux fish from Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd. being sold in stores and alerted the FDA, which prohibits the sale of this adulterated product in the United States.

Although, to date, there have been no reported illness linked to the ungutted alewives/gaspereaux fish, the FDA is alerting consumers who have purchased the contaminated fish in Florida to contact the place of purchase to determine if the fish originated from Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd.  If so, or if the source of the product cannot be determined, consumers are advised by the FDA to immediately discard the fish and any foods made with the tainted fish.

Botuslim is a very serious, sometimes deadly infection; the contamination cannot be removed by freezing or cooking foods.  Botulism symptoms can initiate any time from six hours to 10 days after eating contaminated food, says the FDA, and can include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness that starts at the shoulders and moves progressively down the body.  Botulism poisoning can also cause paralysis of the breathing muscles, which can lead to death without treatment and respiratory ventilation in about eight percent of cases.  If not treated properly, botulism can paralyze breathing muscles, and victims can spend months on hospital ventilators until the botulism toxin is out of their system.

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