Recall issued after scallops linked to hepatitis A also shipped to California, Nevada

Always Investigating

The Food and Drug Administration says tainted scallops blamed for Hawaii’s hepatitis A outbreak were distributed beyond the islands.

We’ve learned from the supplier just how many pounds of product is being recalled.

The FDA now says it has tracked the full extent of shipments that included the hepatitis-A-positive scallops. Now the company that imported them from the Philippines has launched a massive recall, while the area on watch for potential illness broadens.

The FDA tracked down the tainted scallops to a harvest in the Philippines by De Oro Resources in November 2015. From there, De Oro shipped it off to mainland distributor Sea Port Products, based in Washington state.

Sea Port sold the scallops to Hawaii’s wholesale suppliers that Genki Sushi bought it from, and Genki served it sometime this spring and summer.

But it turns out the scallops also got sent out to California and Nevada restaurant suppliers and wholesalers. None were packaged for grocery retail sale in any of the three spots.

In all, nearly 24,000 pounds of potentially tainted food were distributed.

Sea Port told Always Investigating there are 389 cases of 30 pounds each in the suspect lot, but they’re also recalling an additional 411 cases just to be sure, to cover all the scallops processed and packed on the same dates. It won’t divulge how much went where, citing competitive reasons.

“In talking to our customers, we have learned that much of the recalled product is still in inventory and was never consumed,” said Sea Port spokeswoman Amy Philpott. “The company doesn’t have exact numbers because it is still collecting customers’ information.”

The FDA says it’s working closely with Sea Port to “ensure their recall is effective and that recalled product is removed from the market.”

Always Investigating reached out to the state health departments in both California and Nevada, as well as food trade groups there.

While Nevada’s health department says it has a case linked to the Hawaii outbreak by contact, its epidemiologist, Sandi Larson, said she has “not been made aware of any local cases associated with a shipment in Nevada,” adding that “reported Hep A cases to the locals would receive traceback follow-up of potential exposers to contaminated scallops and if that restaurant received the shipment.”

Neither the restaurant associations of California nor Nevada had been made aware of the problem yet when Always Investigating reached them Friday. Together, they represent tens of thousands of member eateries and suppliers.

Each organization’s representative said they’d be sharing the information with their members, after we pointed out the FDA outbreak and recall details posted on the federal website.

But there may be as many questions as answers after the extensive state and federal investigation. Was there any connection with the De Oro Resources shipment the FDA called “filthy” and “putrid” during an inspection when it reached the East Coast this April?

And at that time, was anything more done to broadly alert the distributors of De Oro Resources products besides the FDA New England District Office’s (NWE-DO) single-line rejection record in its import-refusal database?

FDA is able to inspect only about two percent of imported seafood, so while they catch a fraction of that as bad batches, the majority of everything else, good and bad, passes on through.

We also looked farther back and found that while De Oro had many fewer infractions than other foreign seafood suppliers, they did have rejections of scallops, shrimp and prawns for filthy conditions dating back to 2004, and even a 2012 scallops shipment suspected of salmonella.

Always Investigating has been in touch with the Philippines company to follow up with whether it’s making changes after the outbreak.

We’ll also keep tabs on any new information from the FDA, distributors and health departments of all the potentially affected states.

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