FDA looks to shut down seafood processor

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Civil complaint filed against Michel Cordon Bleu
US authorities have taken action to prevent the distribution of ‘adulterated’ seafood products by a Californian company.

A civil complaint was filed against Michel Cordon Bleu Inc. of Los Angeles and its owner and president Michel G. Blanchet.

A complaint is a set of allegations that if the case were to proceed to trial the government would need to prove.

Michel Cordon Bleu prepares, processes, packs, holds and distributes vacuum-packed, ready-to-eat cold and hot smoked fish and fishery products including smoked salmon, trout and sturgeon.

It receives raw fish from outside of California, including salmon from Florida and trout from Idaho.

About 70% of items are sold to distributors, 25% to restaurants, hotels and retailers and 5% to cruise ship lines.

Re-building the process

The company told us that nothing has changed in the manufacturing, processing and record-keeping with MCBleu over the years however laws have evolved and it has seen many seafood smokers suffer the consequences of not adjusting with new regulations mandated by the FDA.

“Michel Blanchet is now 70 years of age and has realized that he is not fit to keep up with all of these changes, so he has sold all of his assets and brand rights that are in conjunction with MCBleu to a firm that will re-build the process ensuring that all of these processes are fully compliant with all new and future requirements mandated by government food safety organizations.

“Countless people have enjoyed the products produced by MCBleu over the years, and the new firm will work very hard to do whatever is necessary to continue to make safe, top quality and delicious smoked products available to the market for many years to come.”

The sale has not yet been finalized so the takeover company has not been named.

The complaint alleges that seafood products are adulterated due to unsanitary operating conditions where they may have become contaminated with filth or pose a health risk.

The Department of Justice filed the complaint at the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that seafood processors comply with laws designed to protect consumers,”​ said Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

FDA inspections

FDA has inspected Michel Cordon Bleu’s facility nine times since 1998 including twice in 2016. 

The complaint alleges that defendants did not comply with seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations by…failing to adequately control the risk of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) and Clostridium botulinum (C bot.) toxin formation in their vacuum-packed fish or fishery products.

Seafood HACCP regulations require every fish processor to do an analysis to determine whether there are hazards reasonably likely to occur during processing of each kind of fishery product it works with.

“When necessary, we will seek legal action to ensure that manufacturers take steps to comply with food safety laws and regulations​,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, FDA associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

FDA’s analysis of environmental samples from a January-February 2016 inspection revealed L. mono contamination in multiple parts of the Michel Cordon Bleu facility.

Environmental samples from a subsequent inspection in July-August 2016 also revealed L. mono contamination in multiple locations in the plant.

Deficiencies during inspections included failure to monitor sanitation conditions and practices with sufficient frequency to assure conformance with good manufacturing practices and failure to take corrective action that ensured affected product was not put onto the market and the cause of the deviation was corrected.

FDA said the firm responded to inspection findings but failed to address all the violations.

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