Houston-based distributor Fulton Seafood, Inc. has recalled more than 50 tons of catfish distributed all throughout Texas. The siluriformes fish products (wild caught catfish) were packaged and disturbed without undergoing any inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). This distribution of uninspected fish has prompted a Class I FDA seafood recall. The dangers associated with this recall are wide-spread, and could be a potentially fatal danger to Texas consumers.
How to Identify Recalled Catfish
Fulton Seafood recalled wild caught catfish because the fish was available to consumers without the benefit of an FSIS inspection. The fish is identifiable by its packaging and a conspicuous lack of the standard USDA inspection label.
The seafood recall affects fish processed between January 2018 and February 2019. During this time Fulton Seafood processed, packaged, and distributed more than 100,000 pounds of wild caught catfish to grocery stores. The fish was packaged in 60-pound brown cardboard boxes labeled simply, “River Catfish Wild USA.”
How Dangerous is this Seafood Recall?
The FDA classified the recall of Fulton Seafood catfish as a Class I recall, which means “there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death”. For comparison, the FDA also issues Class II and Class III recalls.
- Class II recalls present a “remote” possibility of danger to consumers’ health.
- Class III recalls do not involve a health risk to the consumer.
Companies that flout the legal regulations set forth and defined by federal agencies can, and should, be held financially accountable when their non-compliance harms consumers. Those regulations exist to protect against companies taking advantage of the public and selling unsafe food.
What to Do if You Have Purchased Fish in this Seafood Recall
The USDA urges all Texas consumers to closely inspect any catfish purchased from January 2018 to February 2019 for the presence of USDA inspection labels. If you find any packaged catfish without this label, discard the fish immediately or return it to the store where you purchased it from.
Uninspected Food Carries Increased Risk of Food Poisoning
Uninspected food distributed to consumers could contain any number of contaminants, or be adulterated with any substance. With no regulation, there is no way to tell exactly what kind of danger this food can pose to consumers. That is why consumers should always pay attention to food recalls.
Without the benefit of federal inspection, this catfish is at a greater risk of causing illness to anyone who consumes it. One concern is allergies, as food that has not passed inspection cannot be confirmed to be free of certain ingredients or allergens.
Another concern is food poisoning, as the food has not been inspected and been deemed safe for consumption. The following are symptoms of food poisoning that require immediate medical attention:
- Fever of 101.5 F or higher
- Blood in stool
- Vomiting with a frequency that prevents the victim from keeping liquids down
- Diarrhea for longer than three days
- Signs of severe dehydration, such as dizziness when standing, infrequent urination, or dry mouth and throat
Less severe symptoms of food poisoning that may not require medical attention are:
- Stomach cramps or upset stomach
- Mild fever
If you or someone you love has suffered from an allergic reaction to wild caught catfish, or has been diagnosed with food poisoning after consuming it, you may be a victim of this seafood recall. To learn more about your rights and what you can do, contact Bad Food Recall. If you are entitled to compensation for your injuries, we can help.
Why USDA Inspections are Important
The USDA inspects food to protect consumers from unscrupulous or negligent food producers. American consumers benefit from USDA FSIS inspections in the following ways:
- Correct Identification of Species: Consumers have a right to know exactly what they are feeding their families. Apart from serving to prevent safety concerns like food sensitivities or allergies, FSIS inspections protect the public from paying sea bass prices for tilapia quality fish, which can happen when products are dishonestly identified by food producers. In this case, there was no way to verify the food labeled as wild caught American catfish were, in fact, catfish.
- Sampling to Avoid Disease and Contaminants: When food producers submit to USDA regulations and inspections, the food itself as well as involved surfaces and tools are sampled and tested for the presence of dangerous contaminates like E. coli and listeria. The lack of inspection means there is not any way of knowing whether the catfish in this seafood recall is contaminated. The FDA urges consumers not to consume products included in the seafood recall, as it is the safest option.
- Uniformity of Origin Labeling: USDA regulations provide standardized definitions for labeling the origin of siluriformes, which is the label by which the USDA refers to all types of catfish. This way, there is no room for interpretation of terms like “wild caught,” “farm-raised,” or “organic.” In order to use these labels, the contents of the package must conform to the USDA’s definitions of the term.
- Regulation of Adulteration Practices: The USDA allows for a regulated and defined amount of adulteration, such as salt water solutions or added flavor. Again, without an inspection, the catfish distributed by Fulton Seafood could be adulterated with anything.
- Uniformity of Portion Labeling and Weight: During inspection, scales and other measurement tools are inspected for accuracy and uniformity. The USDA also defines portion labels for catfish, such as “fillets” or “nuggets”, to make sure that consumers are purchasing a genuine food item in the accurate measurement as stated on the label.
It is shocking that Fulton Seafood was able to distribute uninspected fish for more than a year throughout the state of Texas. At this time, there have been no reports of illness or other adverse effects known to be caused by the uninspected product, but it is also true that the FDA only announced the recall on February 22, 2019. It is possible that the fish in this seafood recall has been making people sick for months without anyone drawing the connection.
Learn More about Recalls and Your Legal Rights
As a consumer, you have certain legal rights that manufacturers and distributors are required to uphold. When they fail to do so, and you are harmed as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. If this seafood recall has put your family in harm’s way, contact the food safety attorneys at Bad Food Recall to learn more.