At the request of the FDA, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint to stop Felix Custom Smoking of Monroe, Washington, from processing and selling adulterated seafood. The complaint, which was filed March 9, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleges that the filthy conditions and Listeria found at the facility mean the ready-to-eat products the company produces are adulterated.
Felix Custom Smoking makes smoked fish and fish jerky products including:
- Felix Northwest Blend Smoked Wild King Salmon
- Felix Northwest Blend Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon
- Felix Northwest Blend Smoked Wild Tuna
- Felix Pepper Smoked Wild Mixed Salmon Jerky
- Felix Wild Keta Teriyaki Smoked Salmon Jerky
The company sells products directly to consumers and at farmers’ markets. It also provides custom processing for fishermen and other companies including Loki Fish Company of Seattle.
During an inspection in July 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found Listeria at the facility. The agency collected 104 environmental samples. Of the 19 that were positive for Listeria, five were on food contact surfaces and two were on ready-to-eat areas. It was also found in a package of Loki brand cold smoked salmon.
Genetic testing on these samples revealed that it was the same Listeria strain that the FDA found at the facility during a 2018 inspection. Inspectors also found areas of standing water on the floor, a food slicer held together with rubber bands, an employee washing parts of a food slicer in the handwashing sink, dripping condensate near a slicer in the ready-to-eat area, dead and live flies “too numerous to count,” and live flies on food contact surfaces.
Based on these findings, the FDA requested that the company issue a recall. When the company declined, the FDA issued a public health alert for Felix brand smoked salmon, smoked tuna, and salmon jerky products that were potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Loki Fish Company, the Felix Custom Smoking customer whose product tested positive for Listeria issued a smoked salmon recall on August 23, 2021. Felix Custom Smoking has continued to make smoked fish and jerky products.
Eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious illness and death. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. Because of these life-threatening risks, it is illegal to sell ready-to-eat foods that are contaminated with Listeria.
Symptoms of a Listeria infection include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, other muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and loss of balance. These symptoms usually develop within two weeks of eating contaminated food but can take as long as 70 days to appear. Treatment often requires hospitalization, about 20 percent of cases are fatal.
“Food processors must ensure the safety of their products,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said in a statement. “The department will continue to work closely with FDA to stop the distribution of contaminated food.”
By filing the complaint, the U.S. Justice Department is seeking to block Felix Custom Smoking from making or distributing any more seafood until sanitation improvements are made and the facility is on compliance with federal food safety regulations.
Experienced Listeria Lawyers
The Food Safety Team at Pritzker Hageman has more experience handling Listeria lawsuits than any other law firm in the country securing some of the largest Listeria settlements in U.S. history including a recent award of $6.4 million for neurologic injury from a contaminated deli product.
If you were sickened by food contaminated with Listeria and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact our Listeria lawyers. You can reach us by calling 1-888-377-8900, sending a text to 612-261-0856, or by completing the form below. There is no obligation and we don’t get paid unless we win.