Improper tuna, mahi mahi handling earns Hawaiian processor FDA warning

Serious violations of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) criteria have earned one Honolulu, Hawaii-based seafood processor a warning letter from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

An FDA inspection conducted at Tropic Fish Hawaii LLC between 17 to 20 May found that the company’s “fresh, refrigerated histamine-forming fish products, including Ahi tuna, mahi mahi, and skipjack tuna” had been rendered adulterated due to being improperly prepared or packed. What’s more, the agency suspected that the facility held such products “under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health,” Food Safety News relayed, quoting the letter.

Inspectors observed unprocessed Ahi tuna intended for raw consumption being stored on a concrete floor and then dragged across the floor onto a pallet by an employee. Auditors also found the company monitoring the surface temperature of fish with an infrared thermometer, however, the company has since stated that it has resumed using a probe thermometer.

While Tropic Fish did respond to the FDA’s concerns on 13 June, the agency found that the company had yet to address all of the issues brought up by auditors, hence the latest letter, postmarked 27 July and sent from the agency’s San Francisco District Office.

According to the agency, Tropic Fish, to comply with federal law, “must conduct a hazard analysis to determine whether there are food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur and have a HACCP plan that, at a minimum, lists the critical control points.” In its HACCP plan, Tropic Fish does not contain the critical control point of refrigerated storage for controlling the food safety hazard of scombrotoxin (histamine) formation: Product storage should be at 44 degrees F and the internal temperature of two Ahi tuna in the room should be at 42 degrees F; if the raw product is refrigerated and not frozen, it should be held at 40 degrees F or below, noted the FDA. If this fish is stored under ice, it should remain as such for the full duration of its storage time.

The FDA also took issue with the company’s claim that pathogenic bacteria growth was not considered a potential hazard as the company utilizes potable water in its facility. “Your response is not adequate and your hazards analysis is incorrect,” the warning letter states. “FDA has identified pathogenic bacteria growth and toxin formation as a food safety hazard in finfish, i.e. tuna, intended for raw consumption and control of this significant hazard must be included in your HACCP plan in the event of time and temperature abuse,” said the agency.

Tropic Fish was also cited for not be monitoring for the prevention of cross-contamination, insufficiently cleaning food contact surfaces and not controlling the processing environment to prevent employee health conditions.

The employee seen dragging the tuna palette has since been counseled, countered Tropic Fish, and extra pallets added for storage; plastic platform trucks have also been ordered to help transport products, said the company.

Tropic Fish has 15 working days from reception of the latest letter to outline the procedures they have taken or will take to address the agency’s concerns.


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