FDA Acts Against Maryland Seafood Firm

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced that Maryland seafood processor, the Congressional Seafood Company of Jessup, MD, that delivers fresh, frozen, and ready-to-eat seafood in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., is to stop processing and distributing <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">adulterated fish and seafood because it is not compliant with federal food safety laws.

The firm and three of its executives were cited by the agency for failing to follow the FDA’s seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations in the handling of products including raw, ready-to-eat tuna for sushi and sashimi; fresh and vacuum-packed crabmeat; frozen octopus and shrimp; and molluscan shellfish. Violations included failure to document that fish were refrigerated at appropriate temperatures, failure to keep fish species separate to avoid cross-contamination, failure to meet sanitation standards or keep records of compliance, and failure to verify that imported fish met FDA standards. “On numerous occasions, FDA has warned the defendants, both orally and in writing, about their conduct and has emphasized the importance of their compliance with the (Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic) Act,” said Michael Chappell, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at FDA.

The FDA filed a consent decree of permanent injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The decree, signed by U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg, applies to the firm and company President Stanley S. Pearlman, Vice President Jonathan D. Pearlman, and HACCP Coordinator Stephen G. Bardsley. The decree with Congressional Seafood also bars former company President Thomas P. Spencer from any involvement in management or operations of the firm. Under the decree, to become compliant with food safety laws, Congressional Seafood must have its HACCP and sanitation plans submitted by an independent expert and approved by FDA.

The decree allows FDA to shut down Congressional Seafood, recall its products, or take other corrective action in the event of future violations. The decree also requires the defendants to pay the costs of inspections performed pursuant to the decree. Failure to abide by the agreement can lead to civil or criminal penalties. The FDA complaint accompanying the decree notes that the production of fresh, frozen, and ready-to-eat seafood products without adequate HACCP plans pose a significant public health risk because these products are well-known sources of Escherichia coli (E. coli), Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella spp., and other pathogenic microorganisms. Humans who consume food containing these bacteria can suffer serious health consequences.

Food poisoning can lead to other adverse health effects, some long-term and serious, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), specifically in people who suffered from Salmonella. IBD can cause abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and bleeding from the intestines. Salmonella victims are also at risk of developing a form of reactive arthritis called Reiter’s Syndrome, which typically affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and lower back.

E. coli victims sometimes require kidney transplants and may have scarred intestines that cause lasting digestive difficulty. Even E. coli patients who supposedly recovered can experience long-term health problems later on. For instance, it is estimated that 10 percent of E. coli sufferers develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, in which their kidneys and other organs fail.

Listeria monocytogenes infects about 2,500 people in the U.S., killing 500. Listeriosis can kill fetuses, prompt premature births, and lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns and neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults.

Clostridium botulinum can cause life-threatening illness or death. Symptoms 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 breathing muscles, which can lead to death without treatment and respiratory ventilation in about eight percent of cases.

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