Things were more than a little fishy at a local seafood-processing plant. So fishy, in fact, that the Department of Justice has gone to court to shut down the Los Angeles seafood company, Neptune Manufacturing Co., for producing and distributing “adulterated products.” Translation: The facilities were filthy, and the Food and Drug Administration had been trying to get the company to clean up its act for seven years.
In legalese, according to the DOJ: The department filed a complaint in U.S. District Court on Nov. 21 at the request of the FDA, “alleging the company’s seafood products are produced under conditions that are inadequate to ensure the safety of its products.” Neptune “prepares, processes, packs, holds and distributes” ready-to-eat smoked and salt-cured seafood including pickled herring, smoked steelhead trout, smoked halibut, smoked whitefish, smoked salmon and smoked mackerel. (Swedes may need to come up with a different Christmas snack this year.)
The company agreed to a settlement that makes it bound by a consent decree of permanent injunction that prohibits it from committing violations of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The consent decree requires Neptune to cease all manufacturing operations and requires that, in order to resume distributing seafood products, the FDA first must determine that Neptune’s manufacturing practices have come into compliance with the law.
“Neptune was repeatedly informed that the sanitation practices at its facility were deficient,” said acting assistant attorney general Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The failure to actively plan for and control the presence of bacteria and neurotoxins commonly found in seafood-processing facilities can pose a serious risk to the public health.”
According to the complaint, since 2006, FDA inspections have documented a pattern of continuing unsanitary conditions resulting in the persistent presence of Listeria monocytogenes. These unsanitary conditions were the result of deviations from current good manufacturing practices, such as not adequately cleaning surfaces and utensils used for cutting fish.
Further, according to the complaint, the FDA’s most recent inspection, in December 2013, found that the company failed to control for Clostridium botulinum (which causes botulism) as well as Listeria hazards.
According to the complaint, the FDA has performed seven inspections of Neptune’s facility since 2006 and documented violations every time. The complaint also says that the company failed to take appropriate corrective action. The complaint alleges that FDA environmental samples taken around the facility tested positive for Listeria in critical areas such as the brining room, smoking/drying room and the walk-in cooler where finished products are stored.
Nobody, but nobody, likes bad fish.