Lobster Company With Four Recalls in Two Years Shut Down by Feds

Portland Shellfish Co. Inc., which sells ready-to-eat lobster meat nationwide, agreed to shut down until it cleans processing plants to the satisfaction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Maine seafood company didn't admit to any liability or wrongdoing in signing the agreement, approved by a federal judge. The FDA said tests taken at the plants showed the facilities were contaminated with listeria monocytogenes.

Portland Shellfish was at the center of a nationwide recall last summer of lobster meat due to potential listeria contamination. It sells lobster products nationwide under the Claw Island, Craig's All Natural, Inland Ocean and Portland Shellfish brands.Listeria can cause a potentially life-threatening infection in young children and those with weakened immune systems. Even normally healthy people can suffer from gastrointestinal problems, fever, headaches and stiffness.

Portland Shellfish also sells ready-to-eat lobster, shrimp and crab products to retailers in Massachusetts, California, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, New Jersey and Louisiana.

Portland Shellfish also agreed to put product testing and other quality control programs in place and pay for the FDA's expenses to oversee, test and monitor the business. The cost of FDA supervision is $100 or so an hour per worker, plus expenses like travel. If the company doesn't comply it will face civil or criminal penalties.

The consent decree does allow Portland Shellfish to be a seafood broker -- but the company can't process or store any food it's contractually obligated to buy.

The FDA said the company has had four product recalls the past two years.

Food processing standards are one of the issues the new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act aims to improve by creating guidelines for businesses to follow.
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