April 7, 2020

Salmonella Outbreak, Food Fraud Make Tough Times For Tuna

Sorry Charlie, the last 12 months have been kind of rough for tuna. One year ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a multi-state Salmonella outbreak linked to frozen, raw yellowfin tuna product that sickened 425 people in 28 states before the CDC declared its end in July. A few months later, a study on food fraud revealed that tuna is one of the most commonly mislabeled fish, landing on consumers’ plates only 40 percent of the time they thought they were buying it.

Raw Scraped Tuna

Raw Scraped Tuna

Salmonella is the second leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., and the leading cause of hospitalizations and deaths that are food-related, according to the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  More than 370 Americans die from Salmonella poisoning every year.

The tuna Salmonella outbreak, which was the largest of 2012, put 55 people in the hospital.  Called tuna scrape or Nakaochi Scrape, because it is scraped from the bones of the fish, the tuna product looks like raw ground tuna was used to make sushi, sashimi and other seafood dishes.  It was produced in India and distributed in the US by Moon Marine USA Corporation. About 60 percent of those who were sickened were female.  Although patients ranged in age from 1 o 86, the median age was 30.

Two strains  of Salmonella were involved in the outbreak: Salmonella Bareilly and Salmonella Nchanga. The 410 cases of Salmonella Bareilly poisoning were in the following states: Alabama (5), Arkansas (1), California (8), Colorado (1), Connecticut (11), District of Columbia (3), Florida (1), Georgia (20), Illinois (30) Indiana (1), Kansas (1), Louisiana (6), Massachusetts (36), Maryland (39), Missouri (4), Mississippi (2), Nebraska (2), North Carolina (12), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (39), New York (62), Pennsylvania (37), Rhode Island (6), South Carolina (5), Tennessee (4), Texas (14), Virginia (33), Vermont (1), and Wisconsin (24).  The 25 cases of Salmonella Nchanga were in: Georgia (2), Maryland (1), New Jersey (3), New York (6), Texas (1), Virginia (1), and Wisconsin (1).

About seven months after the outbreak, Oceana, an international ocean conservation nonprofit organization, released a food fraud study. Between 2010 and 2012, researchers collected “more than 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states to determine if they were honestly labeled.” DNA testing showed that one third of the samples were mislabeled. The fish types most commonly mislabeled were snapper and tuna.  About 87 percent of samples labeled red snapper were not,  59 percent of samples labeled tuna were not.



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