Frozen Salted Croaker Recalled—Possible Botulism Contamination

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker just released an alert to consumers to not eat “Frozen Salted Croaker” because they pose a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">botulism risk.  The Frozen Salted Croaker was distributed by YS Trading Corp of 38-21 23rd Street, Long Island City, New York 11101 and is being recalled because the product was uneviscerated, which means that the fish was illegally sold whole, without its inner organs being properly removed.  The Frozen Salted Croaker was sold in Hicksville, New York; Flushing, New York; and New Jersey in un-coded, unlabeled plastic bags.

Uneviscerated fish is prohibited under New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ regulations because Clostridium botulinum spores are more likely to be concentrated in the viscera—the internal organs in the main cavities of the body, specifically the intestines—than in any other portion of the fish.  Uneviscerated fish has been linked to outbreaks of Botulism poisoning.  Because the fish is uneviscerated—or sold whole, with its internal organs in tact, the croaker is likelier to become contaminated with Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause Botulism, a serious and potentially fatal food-borne illness.  The croaker is also known by the names Tambour, Adlerfisch, Corbina, Gorbyl, and Nibe.  The fish is relatively small, only reaching weights of from one-to-two pounds.

Clostridium botulinum is a rare and serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin.  Classic symptoms include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness.  Symptoms can occur as early as six hours or as late as 10 days after ingestion or exposure to tainted food.  Botulism bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments, which is what is found in the organs of fish.  Clostridium botulinum can create the nerve toxin that can be fatal if left untreated.   Unlike other food borne pathogens, botulism toxins can be absorbed through the skin and also even inhaled, which means people who never ate the contaminated product could be at risk, a serious concern with contaminated foods that are cut open—such as fish—in which the act of opening the food can release deadly toxins into the air, contaminating those in the vicinity.

The “Frozen Salted Croaker” was discovered by a New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets food inspector during a routine inspection; follow-up analysis by New York State Food Laboratory personnel confirmed the Frozen Salted Croaker was uneviscerated and being sold whole.  No illnesses have been reported, to date, in connection with the Frozen Saled Croaker and consumers in possession of the Frozen Salted Croaker are strongly advised not to eat it.

There is growing concern in the scientific community over the seeming prevalence of all manner of food borne illnesses—listeria, salmonella, E. coli, and botulism.  In the last two years, a variety of food borne pathogens have killed several people, sickened thousands, and touched nearly every state in the country as well as Canada.  The problem is difficult to police because the food-surveillance system is outdated, under-funded, and overwhelmed by the emergence of mega-farms, -distribution centers, and -transporters.

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