Abbott sues Port Arthur shrimp processing plant over sanitation violations

Kelly Holleran Dec. 3, 2008, 10:43am

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed suit against Titan Seafood and its owner, alleging the company violated multiple sanitary rules and operated without an active food manufacturer's license.

Titan Seafood, a gulf shrimp processor located on the Intercoastal Waterway in Port Arthur, has been operating without an active license since Aug. 29, 2006, even though its existence was forfeited in February 2006, according to a complaint filed Dec. 1 in Jefferson County District Court.

Most recently, Titan Seafood has been packaging individually quick frozen gulf shrimp, the suit states.

In order to package the gulf shrimp, Titan Seafood is required to obey a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Plan, Abbott claims.

However, the company and its owner, Loc. C. Tran, have not properly implemented the monitoring, record-keeping and verification procedures listed in the plan, according to the complaint.

Titan Seafood and Tran are also not monitoring sanitary conditions, the suit states.

Many unsanitary conditions were observed, Abbott claims.

Those include a water holding tank in the rear of the secondary processing facility leaking water. That water was draining into an opening in the ice sugar and ice room where it continued to drain throughout the secondary processing facility, "thus, creating the potential for the water to cross-contaminate the ice used for storage and refrigeration of the gulf shrimp," the suit states.

Green algae was also seen growing on concrete where water was being discharged, according to the complaint.

In addition, stainless steel production tabletops used to de-head the shrimp had rusted welds and sharp edges, Abbott claims.

In the main processing room, tape and exposed insulation were hanging from the ceiling directly about an individually quick frozen machine in operation and above pallets of finished, cased products, according to the complaint.

Employees could not easily access hand-washing sinks in either the main process room or in the secondary processing facility, the suit states.

"In the main processing facility, employees handling shrimp product on the IQF production line were observed biting their fingernails, wiping their hands on their clothing, and picking up shrimp from the floor without washing their hands," the suit states.

Inspectors found more than 50 large live flies landing on equipment, totes of gulf shrimp, ice, walls and handheld utensils in the secondary processing facility, Abbott claims.

"All of the above conduct of Defendants adulterates or may caused the adulteration of food because it has been produced, prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered diseased, unwholesome, or injurious to health," the suit states.

Abbott is seeking temporary injunction after due notice and a permanent injunction upon final hearing that restricts Titan Seafood and Tran from manufacturing food without first obtaining a license, from manufacturing any food that is adulterated or misbranded, from introducing or delivering for introduction into commerce any food that is adulterated and from manufacturing any food without complying with the applicable good manufacturing practice provisions.

He is also seeking a temporary and permanent injunction that would enjoin the company from:

  • Failing to perform, maintain or verify record-keeping;
  • Failing to have a HACCP certified individual oversee the HACCP plan;
  • Failing to monitor the sanitary conditions and practices of Titan Seafood and its employees;
  • Failing to maintain in good working condition its on-site aerobic septic system;
  • Failing to protect the food production areas from insects and birds;
  • Failing to keep equipment, containers and utensils cleaned, sanitized and maintained;
  • Failing to maintain a sanitary condition in its buildings, fixtures and other physical facilities;
  • Failing to adequately install and maintain plumbing that properly conveys liquid disposable waste from the plant;
  • Failing to provide backflow prevention devices on water hoses or hose bibs;
  • Failing to maintain records of monthly bacteriological sampling or chemical analysis for the private water well;
  • Failing to properly store and maintain equipment;
  • failing to provide hand washing sinks in the processing room;
  • Failing to provide hot water, soap and paper towels in the restrooms; and
  • From using equipment and utensils that are not appropriately designed.

    Abbott also asked the court to adjudge civil penalties of $25,000 per day per violation to be paid to the state of Texas, plus attorneys' fees, costs and other relief it deems just.

    Abbott, Kent C. Sullivan, Jeff L. Rose and Paul D. Carmona will be representing the state.

    The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield of the 136th District Court.

    Case No. D182-785

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