FDA issues botulism warning over imported fish

SILVER SPRING Md. The Food and Drug Administration has warned restaurateurs, retailers and consumes not to sell or eat imported ungutted, salt-cured alewives fish, also known as Gaspereaux fish, from Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd. of New Brunswick, Canada. The warning, which was issued Friday, said the product may be contaminated with the toxin that causes botulism.

To date, the FDA said, there have been no reported illnesses associated with the imported alewives.

The fish were packed in 30-pound, white plastic pails, with green plastic lids, that had on their sides the words, “Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd.” In all, 173 such pails were distributed domestically, and the contents may have been repacked or sold loose by retailers in Florida, the Silver Spring-based FDA sources said.

According to the FDA, the imported fish were shipped to U.S. distributors Quirch Foods Inc., Den-Mar Exports LLC, Dolphin Fisheries Inc. and Labrador & Son Food Products Inc.

FDA representatives said businesses or consumers that have purchased ungutted, cured alewives should check with the source to determine if the product came from Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries. If so, or if the origin cannot be determined, they should discard the fish and anything made with it, the agency said.

FDA representatives said the agency considers any ungutted fish over 5 inches in length that is salt-cured, dried, or smoked to be adulterated because it could contain the C. botulinum toxin.

Symptoms of botulism poisoning, which can be deadly, can begin six hours to 10 days after eating food that contains the toxin. They may include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness.