I’m not sure how many of you out there are avid consumers of ungutted, salt-cured Alewives fish (mmm, sounds delicious, doesn’t it?), but for those of you who are you need to heed the FDA’s just-announced consumer warning

Retailers and food service operators are being instructed not to offer for sale ungutted, salt-cured alewives (also called gaspereaux fish) from Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd., CAP-PELÈ, New Brunswick, Canada, because the fish may contain the Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) toxin. Consumers should not consume the product.

C. botulinum toxin can cause botulism, a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. The toxin cannot be removed by cooking or freezing.

The fish were imported into the United States and sent to these Florida distributors:

  • Quirch Foods Inc.
  • Den-Mar Exports LLC
  • Dolphin Fisheries Inc.
  • Labrador & Son Food Products Inc.

The fish were packed in 30-pound, white plastic pails with green plastic lids. The brand name "Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd.," appears on the side of the pails, as does the phrase "Product of Canada." One hundred seventy-three (173) 30 lb. pails of fish were distributed. The fish may have been repacked or sold loose by retailers in Florida.

The FDA considers any ungutted fish over five inches in length that is salt-cured, dried, or smoked, such as the ungutted, salt-cured alewives/gaspereaux fish, to be adulterated because it could contain the C. botulinum toxin. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services discovered the ungutted alewives/gaspereaux fish from Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd. being sold in stores and alerted the FDA. The FDA prohibits the sale of this adulterated product in the United States.

To date, there have been no reported illnesses associated with this product. However, consumers who have purchased ungutted, salt-cured alewives/gaspereaux fish in Florida should contact the place of purchase to determine if the fish they bought originated from Michel & Charles LeBlanc Fisheries Ltd. If the fish were from this company or if the source of the fish cannot be determined, consumers should immediately discard the fish and any foods made with these fish. 

Symptoms of botulism poisoning can begin from six hours to 10 days after eating food that contains the toxin. Symptoms may include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness that affects first the shoulders and then moves progressively down the rest of the body. Botulism poisoning can also cause paralysis of the breathing muscles which can result in death unless assistance with breathing (mechanical ventilation) is provided.

Individuals who show these symptoms and who may have recently eaten alewives/gaspereaux fish should seek immediate medical attention.

For information about other botulism related issues, check out http://www.botulismblog.com/.