A Hancock County seafood business that was previously shut down over food safety violations has issued a recall for smoked salmon it sold earlier this year out of concern that it could have become contaminated with a dangerous bacteria.
Sullivan Harbor Farm is warning that the salmon may contain a bacteria that can cause botulism, a potentially lethal form of food poisoning, the company said this week in an announcement on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.
No illnesses have been reported, but the business — also called Mill Stream Corp. — has voluntarily recalled some of the cold smoked salmon it sold in vacuum-sealed packages between March 6 and Sept. 17, according to the FDA notice.
Owner Leslie Harlow said that the affected salmon was perishable and that most of it was probably consumed soon after it was put on the market in March. She also said that the recall only applied to a small portion of the salmon that the business has produced since reopening last winter.
Harlow said that her business sends all of its salmon to a third-party laboratory to test whether it has enough salt to safely preserve the smoked fish, but the laboratory only recently informed her that it had provided incorrect test results for the batches that have now been recalled. She declined to identify the lab. She also said the FDA has had access to the test results since March but only recently did a review that caught the errors.
While the salmon was frozen when it was sold by Mill Stream Corp., the testing errors meant that it could have become contaminated if retailers or customers had let the product thaw, according to the FDA notice.
“In good faith, we sold salmon based on the results we got from the laboratory,” Harlow said. “We count on the FDA-approved lab to give us results. We count on that. The lab has failed us, and that failure has brought us to where we are today. Had we known back in March, when we started producing fish, we would have disposed of those batches as any responsible food processor does.”
Most of the products were sold to customers at the Sullivan Harbor Farm’s retail shop in the town of Hancock, to businesses around Maine and to individuals around the country by direct order, according to Harlow.
The testing error occurred right around the same time that Sullivan Harbor Farm reopened its doors after it was closed for three years. In early 2016, the FDA had obtained an injunction in federal court to shut down Sullivan Harbor Farm due to food safety violations dating as far back as 2004.
While Harlow helped found the business in 1992 with a former husband, she was not involved with it for many years, she said. In 2016, she bought out her ex-husband and put money into upgrading the facility. Since then, she said, she has worked closely with the FDA to bring the business back into compliance and doesn’t expect the recall to endanger its long-term viability.
“I returned in 2016 with the intent of reopening this business and bringing it back to life, which I did,” she said. “We’re going to get through this pretty quickly, and we’re looking forward to a busy Christmas season.”