FDA confirms Hepatitis A in scallops; multi-state recall begins

Federal officials have confirmed Hepatitis A in frozen, imported scallops that have been linked to an outbreak in Hawaii and are working with Sea Port Products Corp. to recall the shellfish from three states.

None of the implicated scallops were sold direct to consumers, according to a notice posted today by the Food and Drug Administration, but they were distributed restaurants and retailers in California, Hawaii and Nevada.

The scallops were produced by De Oro Resources Inc., located in Suba Basbas, Philippines, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health

recalled Sea Port Products Corp. scallopsAs of Wednesday, 206 people had been confirmed with Hepatitis A infections. All victims are adults and about one in four have required hospitalization, Hawaii health officials said in their weekly update.

About 70 percent of the victims reported eating at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai before becoming sick. Monday evening the Hawaii State Department of Health ordered the chain to close those 11 restaurants, which it did.

“On Aug. 17, FDA laboratory analysis of two scallop samples, which were collected on Aug. 11, were confirmed positive for Hepatitis A. These samples were imported by Sea Port Products Corp.,” according to FDA’s outbreak notice.

The frozen bay scallops, which Genki Sushi restaurants served raw, were produced in the Philippines on Nov. 23 and 24, 2015.

“FDA advises consumers not to eat the recalled bay scallops. Consumers should ask the restaurant or retailer where their scallops came from to make sure they do not eat recalled bay scallops from Sea Port Products Corp.,” the outbreak notice states.

FDA warned company in 2006
Sea Port Products Corp., which has offices in California and Washington, received a warning letter from FDA in November 2006 related to its imported seafood.

FDA inspectors visited the company’s San Mateo, CA, facility in September 2006 and found a “significant violation” related to frozen mahimahi fish. The name of the company that produced the mahimahi was redacted from the warning letter that is posted online.

“You must implement an affirmative step which ensures that the fish and fishery products you import are processed in accordance with the seafood HACCP regulation, to comply with (U.S. laws),” the warning letter states.

“We may take further action if you do not promptly correct these violations. For instance, we may-take further action to refuse admission of your imported fish or fishery products … including placing them on ‘detention without physical examination,’ seize your products and/or enjoin your firm from further violating the (law).”

As is standard with FDA, Sea Port Products had 15 days to respond to the 2006 warning letter in writing. Neither that response nor an FDA close-out letter had been posted by the agency as of this afternoon.

Steps for restaurants and retailers
Because of the robust nature of the Hepatitis A virus — which can survive long periods in fresh and sea water, as well as freezing temperatures for long periods of time — FDA is advising businesses that received the recalled scallops to take special precautions.

Those precautions include:

  • Washing and sanitizing display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored;
  • Washing and sanitizing cutting boards, surfaces and utensils used to prepare, serve or store potentially contaminated products, and
  • Ensuring that employees wash their hands with hot water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

Water, shellfish, and salads are the most frequent foodborne sources of Hepatitis A, according to FDA. Thorough cooking kills the virus in foods.

Hepatitis A can also be transmitted from person to person. Proper hand-washing is considered crucial to avoid transmission, which usually occurs via the fecal-oral route. People should always thoroughly wash their hands before preparing food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.