Salmonella outbreak associated with frozen ‘scraped’ yellowfin tuna mounts

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Restaurateurs who use frozen raw “scraped” yellowfin tuna for sushi or other products should check with their suppliers to make sure they are not using a brand under recall for links to a 20-state outbreak of Salmonella Bareilly illnesses, federal officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, or FDA, and state health agencies are continuing the investigation that for weeks was publicly associated with consumption of raw yellowfin tuna, but only late last week was linked to a specific product that investigators believe “is the likely source” of the Salmonella outbreak.

FDA officials Friday said that Cupertino, Calif.-based Moon Marine USA Corp., which is also known as MMI, was voluntarily recalling more than 29 tons of a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product labeled as Nakaochi Scrape AA or AAA because it was associated with the growing number of illnesses. Nakaochi Scrape, they said, is tuna backmeat, which is specifically scraped off from the bones, and looks like a ground product.

Because the Moon Marine/MMI product may have been removed from original packaging with labels for redistribution to restaurants and retail outlets, FDA officials are advising businesses that use frozen ground yellowfin tuna to check with their suppliers to make sure they did not deliver the recalled Nakaochi Scrape.

The recalled product is not available for sale to individual consumers, but may have been used to make sushi, sashimi, ceviche and similar dishes available in restaurants and grocery stores, the FDA said. It said many of the people sickened reported eating a “spicy tuna” product.

On Tuesday, officials at the CDC in Atlanta said that the number of people stricken in the multi-state outbreak had risen to 141, with 21 of those individuals requiring hospitalization. As of April 17, the number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Alabama (2), Arkansas (1), Connecticut (6), District of Columbia (2), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Illinois (13), Louisiana (3), Maryland (14), Massachusetts (9), Mississippi (2), Missouri (4), New Jersey (8), New York (28), North Carolina (2), Pennsylvania (6), Rhode Island (5), South Carolina (3), Texas (4), Virginia (8) and Wisconsin (14).

CDC officials said that among the 139 stricken persons for whom information was available, illness onset dates ranged from January 28 to April 1. They noted that no deaths have been reported and that illnesses that occurred after March 20, 2012, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

The CDC said hypothesis-generating interviews with stricken individuals beginning in March and running through April 12 pointed outbreak investigators in the direction of sushi made with raw tuna as a source of infections.

As of April 13, the federal agency said, among 53 ill persons asked questions about eating sushi and other seafood in the week before becoming sick, 43, or 81 percent, reported eating sushi. This proportion was significantly higher when compared with results from a survey of healthy persons in which 5 percent reported eating "sushi, sashimi or ceviche made with raw fish or shellfish" in the seven days before they were interviewed. Of the 43 ill persons reporting eating sushi, 39, or 91 percent, reported eating a sushi item containing tuna, and 36, or 84 percent, reported eating a sushi item containing "spicy tuna," CDC sources added.

A total of seven clusters at restaurants or grocery stores were identified as of April 13 where two or more unrelated ill persons reported eating in the week before illness, according to the CDC. It said that in each cluster, at least one ill person reported eating sushi purchased at the restaurant or grocery store. The clusters were located in 5 states: Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin.

Additional investigation details and outbreak information is available at the CDC's website. The full FDA statement about the Moon Marine USA Corp. recall is available at the FDA's website.

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Contact Alan J. Liddle at alan.liddle@nrn.com.
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