Maine seafood company shut down after violating food safety codes for more than 10 years
A Maine seafood company that supplies products to Boston businesses has been shuttered for repeatedly violating food safety standards throughout the last decade, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
On Friday, a permanent injunction against Mill Stream Corp., which does business as Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse, and its former owner, Ira J. Frantzman, was signed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine.
The Department of Justice filed the complaint, which was signed by the defendants, on behalf of the FDA. The defendants agreed to cease all manufacturing operations and only resume distribution of food products once the FDA determines their practices comply with the agency’s standards.
In a Facebook post Monday, the smokehouse said the company had been sold to a new owner in January who is “working through a food safety expert with the FDA to improve safety, sanitation, and training practices in anticipation of reopening soon.”
“This was a very unfortunate set of circumstances here, and a lot of these matters were resolved prior to this injunction occurring Friday,” Leslie Harlow, a spokeswoman for and co-founder of Sullivan Harbor Farm, told Boston.com.
Frantzman sold the facility to a new owner, who took over in January, Harlow said. Between the FDA filing the complaint in October and Friday’s injunction, Frantzman had hired a food safety specialist and a lawyer to assist with the facility, but later decided to sell the business, she said.
FDA inspections of the facility in March and April of last year found “significant, recurring” violations of seafood control regulations and manufacturing requirements, including inadequate practices to prevent the production of a neurotoxin that causes botulism, which can lead to paralysis or death if left untreated, authorities said.
Inspectors also observed rodent excrement “too numerous to count” near where the smoker trays are cleaned, black mold and water stains on the door frame of the walk-in freezer, and an uncovered rack of salmon sitting beneath a pipe with frozen condensate build-up, according to authorities. The complaint also noted that inspectors saw water splashing from the floor into bins that held fish and onto a cutting board.
For 20 years, the facility supplied seafood to Boston-based Legal Sea Foods, Harlow said. That distribution ceased in May following the FDA’s findings, she said. Legal Sea Foods could not be reached for comment Monday.
The FDA said that the infractions date back further than last year, and a 2011 inspection of the facility uncovered a bacteria known as L. mono—which can be fatal to newborns or those with impaired immune systems—on the fish-skinning machine that led officials to order the facility to discard and recall the affected products. For more than a decade, the FDA warned the facility about the violations through meetings, teleconferences, filing a detention order, and sending a warning letter, yet still observed similar violations at the facility, authorities said.
Now, the facility is preparing to open under new ownership, and an announcement on the re-opening date will be made within the next few weeks.
“The operation is ready to reopen,” Harlow said. “We’ve been working with the FDA all winter. [The violations] were easy to remedy matters, there were just many of them.”