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FDA shutters Portland seafood processor

April 11, 2012 | last updated April 12, 2012 11:47 am

Portland Shellfish Co. has been shut down by federal officials for the second time in a little more than a year and is being forced to recall and destroy $25,000 worth of potentially contaminated seafood.

According to the Portland Press Herald, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the order on April 9 after a conveyor belt tested positive for listeria, a bacteria that can grow in refrigerated areas and can cause severe and in some cases fatal infections. The equipment, used to process shrimp, tested positive for the bacteria during an inspection in February. Lobster that was processed in the same room must also be recalled.

Portland Shellfish President Jeffrey Holden told the paper he doesn't believe the seafood in question has been distributed beyond wholesalers. He said the plant is in the midst of a scheduled shutdown as it transitions from shrimp to lobster processing and will work diligently to address the issues. Holden hopes to reopen in June.

Operations at Portland Shellfish, which employs 150 and has two facilities in Portland and South Portland, were halted for several weeks in January 2011 for similar reasons, and the company was cleared to reopen in March 2011. The FDA last year put the company under a consent decree requiring it to improve its sanitation and submit food safety plans. The FDA rejected the updated plans the company submitted most recently in February. Since 2008, Portland Shellfish has issued four recalls of its cooked lobster meat.