The United States seized approximately 5,000 cases of frozen, processed crab products manufactured by Rome Packing Company, Inc. (Rome), because the crab meat is suspected to be contaminated with harmful bacteria.

In a complaint unsealed today, the government alleged that Rome, formerly based in East Providence, R.I., prepared, packed, and processed Jonah crab products in a facility contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogenic bacterium that, once it contaminates foods, can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening, illness.  According to court documents, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected Rome’s facility on six occasions and observed that Rome’s cooking process for crabs did not adequately control temperatures to prevent the growth of pathogens.  Environmental swab samples collected from three areas of Rome’s facility allegedly tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.  The inspection also allegedly revealed poor sanitary practices and conditions in Rome’s facility that may cause cross-contamination between finished and raw food products.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service seized the crab products today from cold storage warehouses in Lakeville, Mass., which were being monitored by FDA officials.  Rome is now in receivership, according to the court documents.

The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act authorizes the government to seize and condemn food products if they are prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions that may have caused the products to become contaminated with filth or to pose a threat to consumer health.

“In partnership with the FDA, we are working to ensure food safety,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.  “Lax sanitary practices in the preparation and storage of food products endanger public health.  Where necessary we will intervene to prevent contaminated food from reaching consumers.”

“The FDA is committed to working with its federal partners to prevent contaminated food from reaching consumers.  Thanks to the collaboration between the FDA and the Department of Justice, we have ensured that the adulterated crab produced by Rome Packing doesn’t make its way to consumers,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. “We will continue to work together to protect the public health.”

“The ‎duties of the United States Marshals Service vary in scope and nature and include enforcing all federal court orders such as the one executed today with our partners from the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office” said United States Marshal John Gibbons of the District of Massachusetts.  “Preparing and processing tainted food products for sale to consumers is unacceptable and the United States Marshals Service will do its part in protecting our nation’s consumers.  I would like to thank the USAO and the FDA for our close partnership‎ on this case.”