A Los Angeles seafood company known for its smoked salmon has been hit with a federal complaint alleging its products were prepared under dangerously unsanitary conditions that could cause the development of disease-causing bacteria, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
The lawsuit against Michel Cordon Bleu Inc. and its owner-president Michel G. Blanchet was brought “to prevent the distribution of adulterated seafood products in violation of federal law,” according to the DOJ.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles, alleges that federal health inspections of the company’s plant found the presence of the bacterium that causes botulism and listeria disease.
Michel Cordon Bleu Vice President El Yaakoube told City News Service that Blanchet is in the process of selling the company he has helmed for decades.
Blanchet, 70, “has realized that he is not fit to keep up with all of these changes, so he has sold all of his assets and brand rights that are in conjunction with MC Bleu to a fully capable firm that will rebuild the process ensuring that all of these processes are fully compliant with all new and future requirements mandated by government food safety organizations,” Yaakoube wrote in an email message.
About 70 percent of Michel Cordon Bleu’s products are sold to distributors, 25 percent to restaurants, hotels and retailers, and 5 percent to cruise ship lines, according to the complaint, which the DOJ said it filed at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“When we find contaminants that can harm public health at a food manufacturing facility, we must take action to protect consumers,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “When necessary, we will seek legal action to ensure that manufacturers take steps to comply with food safety laws and regulations.”
According to the lawsuit, FDA inspected Michel Cordon Bleu’s facility on numerous occasions, including twice last year.
The complaint alleges that the company failed to comply with the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point regulations by not adequately controlling the risk of Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium botulinum toxin formation in its vacuum-packed fish or fishery products.
The seafood regulations require every fish and fishery product processor to conduct, or have conducted for it, a hazard analysis to determine whether there are food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur during the processing of each kind of fish or fishery product that it processes.
According to the complaint, FDA’s analysis of environmental samples collected during its January-February 2016 inspection revealed the presence of L. mono contamination in multiple locations throughout the Michel Cordon Bleu facility. The complaint also alleges that FDA’s analysis of environmental samples collected during its subsequent inspection in July-August 2016 also revealed the presence of L. mono contamination in multiple locations throughout the plant.