LOS ANGELES (CN) - Neptune Manufacturing agreed to a permanent injunction amid claims that it did not ensure a safe environment for seafood production.
The Justice Department had brought its complaint against the Los Angeles-based company late last month with prodding from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Neptune products include "ready-to-eat smoked and salt-cured seafood including pickled herring, smoked steelhead trout, smoked halibut, smoked whitefish, smoked salmon and smoked mackerel," the Justice Department said in a statement.
FDA inspections dating back to 2006 "documented a pattern of continuing conduct of insanitary conditions resulting in the persistent presence of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono)," the Justice Department added.
Investigators blamed "deviations from current good manufacturing practices such as not adequately cleaning surfaces and utensils used for cutting fish."
The FDA conducted its most recent inspection in December 2013, allegedly documenting a failure by Neptune with regard to "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans that control for Clostridium botulinum (C. bot) and L. mono hazards."
Prosecutors describe L. mono as "the bacterium that causes listeriosis, a serious and sometimes fatal infection for vulnerable groups such as newborns, the elderly and those with an impaired immune system. "
"Ingestion of the neurotoxin C. bot can cause botulism," the Justice Department added. "Though the incidence of botulism is rare, its effect is severe and the disease can cause paralysis or death if not promptly treated."
Neptune faced seven FDA inspections since 2006, and violations of "seafood HACCP or current good manufacturing practice" were allegedly recorded every time.
Though the FDA the ordered Neptune "to take certain precautions while brining fish to control potential C. bot hazards," the failure to take appropriate corrective action led to the filing of the complaint, the Justice Department said.
Prosecutors also noted the observation of cutting utensils "with dried pieces of fish on them, and exposed cracks, pits and crevices on the floor allowed water to pool in them, increasing the risk of L. mono contamination."
FDA samples taken from the brining room, the smoking-drying room and the walk-in cooler, where finished products are stored, all tested positive for L. mono, the Justice Department alleged, noting that these are "critical areas."
Neptune and its corporate officers, Alexander Goldring, Peter Oyrekh and Semyon Krutovsky, agreed to settle the complaint, and a federal judge entered a consent decree of permanent injunction on Dec. 1 against them.
The order prohibits them from committing violations of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and it requires Neptune to cease all manufacturing operations.
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