FDA formally issues alert on Korean mollusks


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
May 17, 2012

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday formally warned distributors, retailers and foodservice operators that mollusks from Korea may be contaminated with norovirus due to inadequate sanitation controls.

The FDA alert had been anticipated after several U.S. states, including Washington and Pennsylvania, issued similar warnings this week and last week.

In its alert on Friday, the FDA said Korea’s shellfish sanitation program no longer meets the sanitation controls spelled out under the United States’ National Shellfish Sanitation Program, so the agency has removed all Korean certified shippers of mollusks (including oysters, clams, mussels and scallops) from the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List. The FDA recommended that distributors, retailers and foodservice operators no longer sell these items from Korea. 

After a “comprehensive” investigation, the FDA said it found three areas of deficiencies in Korea’s shellfish sanitation program:

• ineffective management of land-based pollution sources that can impact shellfish growing areas;

• inadequate sanitary controls to prevent the discharge of human fecal waste from fish farms and commercial fishing and aquaculture vessels operating in and adjacent to shellfish-growing areas;

• and detection of norovirus in shellfish growing areas.

No U.S. illnesses from the consumption of Korean shellfish have been reported this year, according to the FDA. Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis.

The FDA alert is expected to have little, if any, impact on the U.S. market, since Korean mollusks represent only a fraction of the U.S. mollusk supply.

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