Tyson Foods has challenged an FDA-assessment that one of its Texas food processing plants had committed “serious violations” of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to the company following an inspection in August at what it said was the seafood soup manufacturing facility in Fort Worth. The agency said Tyson had breached Title 21 of the directive obliging processors to have a full HACCP Plan in place.
But Tyson said the breach was over documentation rather than procedures, and that this had been corrected.
FDA Dallas district director Reynaldo R. Rodriguez told the company that flouting of the regulation meant its seafood soups and sauces were regarded as "adulterated" because “they have been prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health.”
The violation involved the firm's HACCP plan for FDA Seafood Soups and Sauces, which failed to list the food safety hazard of pathogen growth and toxin formation, specifically the potential for Clostridium botulinum toxin formation, said the FDA.
The safety watchdog said its staff saw shrimp and crab meat thawing in a Tyson cooler at temperatures between 40-55°F for about 18 hours in preparation for its seafood gumbo. The FDA urged Tyson to change its HACCP plan to “include a critical control point (CCP) for the refrigerated storage/thawing step” and suggested products be “continuously maintained at or below 40°F in order to control pathogen growth and toxin formation during these extended time periods when the products are held under refrigerated conditions”.
On 9 September, Tyson sent an email to the FDA saying it had addressed the problem by altering its own standard operating procedures. But the FDA again criticised the company, saying its action was “insufficient in that new standard operating procedures cannot be used in lieu of HACCP controls in a HACCP plan”.
The agency added that the firm could face legal action, such as seizure of injunction, if it did not take the proper action.
Tyson, however, defended safety procedures at the plant and disputed one of the FDA’s material facts.
“We believe this is really a documentation issue involving the plant’s written food safety plan. FDA wanted us to document an existing temperature control procedure for thawing seafood used in some of our soups as a critical control point in our Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan,” company spokesman Gary Mickelson told FoodProductionDaily.com. “We have implemented this documentation change.”
He added: “Contrary to the impression left by the FDA letter, our Fort Worth plant is clean and sanitary and the products produced there are safe to eat. In fact, in addition to FDA oversight, there is a USDA inspector in the facility every day of production.”
Mickelson said the plant was not a seafood facility but a prepared foods operation for soups, sauces and side dishes.