Brooklyn Fish Processors Face Contamination Suit

     BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Federal prosecutors demanded an injunction Friday against a Brooklyn company that has “a history of processing fishery products under insanitary conditions, with inadequate safety procedures.”
     The federal complaint under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) names as defendants N.Y. Fish Inc., New York City Fish Inc., Maxim Kutsyk, Pavel Roytkov, Leonid Staroseletesky and Steven Koyfman.
     New York City Fish manufactures and distributes ready-to-eat fishery products, including smoked salmon and mackerel, and operates out of a food processing facility located at 738 Chester St. in Brooklyn, according to the complaint.
     Prosecutors said the company previously operated a similar fish processing business out of the same location, employing virtually all of the same employees.
     Although the company has ceased manufacturing, the Food and Drug Administration allegedly believes that its products continue to be distributed and sold.
     The FDA conducted seven inspections of the Chester Street facility between 2006 and 2013, according to the complaint.
     “The inspections showed a repeated failure to minimize the risk of contamination by two dangerous types of bacteria: Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium botulinum,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “People who eat food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can contract the disease listeriosis, which can be serious, even fatal, for vulnerable groups such as newborns and those with impaired immune systems. Complications from the disease can also lead to miscarriage. Clostridium botulinum spores can produce the toxin that causes botulism. Eating food tainted with this toxin can lead to paralysis and potentially death.
     Prosecutors said the FDA most recently inspected the Chester Street facility in February 2013.
     “According to court filings, the company missed critical processing steps that are essential to prevent the growth and toxin production of Clostridium botulinum and to eliminate any Listeria monocytogenes contamination, including heating fish for a dangerously short time and using insufficiently salty brining solution,” they said in a statement.
     In an August 2012 investigation, FDA inspectors allegedly “discovered widespread sanitation problems and a similar failure to meet critical steps necessary to prevent contamination.”
     Even though N.Y. Fish had attempted to clean and sanitize the facility, inspectors also found salmon products and production equipment contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, according to the complaint.
     “Further testing by the FDA revealed that certain strains of Listeria monocytogenes it found likely had persisted in the Chester Street facility for years,” the Justice Department said. “FDA contends that the facility is so infiltrated with Listeria monocytogenes that New York City Fish must institute heightened monitoring and strict sanitation procedures to have any hope of eradicating this life-threatening organism, but that it has failed to do so.”
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliot Schachner is heading the government’s case with help from trial attorney Adrienne Fowler and the FDA’s associate chief enforcement counsel, Julie Dohm.

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