News and Press Releases

Company’s Tainted Bait Fish was Ultimately Sold for Human Consumption

June 5, 2006

SMOKI FOODS, of Seattle, and ROGER DOUGLAS MAY, 40, of Seattle were sentenced today after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Introduction of Adulterated Food into Interstate Commerce. SMOKI FOODS paid a penalty of $400,000 and MAY was sentenced by Magistrate Judge Monica Benton to one year of probation. The penalty is comprised of two components: a fine of $266,666 and a community service payment of $133,334 to the National Wildlife Foundation and Sea Share.

According to records filed in the case, in 2001 SMOKI FOODS imported nearly 300,000 pounds of fish from Canada. A portion of the fish had been tainted by an ammonia leak at a cold storage facility. Some of the flounder, sole and tuna had been vacuum packed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed the fish to be imported into the United States with the understanding that it would only be sold as bait. SMOKI FOODS attempted to re-condition the fish so it could be sold for human consumption. For example workers attempted to wash the ammonia smell off the vacuum packaging. Despite these efforts the FDA refused to change its position that the fish could only be sold for bait..

While SMOKI FOODS sold the fish as bait, much of the fish was subsequently resold for human consumption. According to the court records, MAY and SMOKI FOODS turned a “blind eye” to whether it was being sold for human consumption. A large amount of the fish was sold to Real Deal Services in Florida. That company resold the fish to the Bureau of Prisons for human consumption. There is little evidence that anyone became seriously ill from eating the fish, although some inmates at the Rochester, Minnesota federal prison facility reportedly suffered stomach disorders.

At today’s sentencing MAY told the court his company would never purchase fish tagged for bait only again. “Short of watching it be destroyed, you could not be sure it would not make it into commerce,” MAY said.

The community service payment will support Sea Share, a seafood donation program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation which finances habitat conservation, protection, restoration and management projects to benefit fish and wildlife resources.

The case was investigated by the FDA, Office of Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carl Blackstone and Lawrence Lincoln.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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