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A sign waving campaign was held at the Safeway store on Kapahulu Avenue, Kaimuki, on Monday, December 29, 2008, to bring attention to the selling of imported fish and other sea foods that have been previously frozen and treated with carbon monoxide.  The treated fish is sold by Safeway and other grocery stores and restaurants in the state of Hawaii, as well as in other states in the United States.    

As recently as December 12, 2008, approximately 240 cases of imported carbon monoxide tuna cubes were destroyed at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill after being refused entry by the United States Food and Drug Administration because it was unsanitary.   In October, 2007, imported cubed tuna was implicated in a cluster of illnesses effecting 32 people.  As documented by the Hawaii State Department of Health and the US FDA, of the 32 victims,  24 individuals were 10 years and younger and five individuals in the cluster were hospitalized.   The DoH states “Consumption of raw fish in the week prior to the onset of illness was self-reported by 27 cases:   this exposure is currently the only potential source identified in this Cluster.”

Choyce Products Inc, a local importer and distributor of some of the imported tuna treated with carbon monoxide and previously frozen, was implicated in the cluster of illnesses caused by Salmonella paratyphi B.  They recalled and destroyed approximately 5,000 pounds of imported tuna treated with carbon monoxide.  In a memorandum dated February 14, 2007, Choyce Products Inc. advised its customers that “Choyce Products unknowingly distributed one lot of frozen Yellowfin tuna which tested positive for salmonella;  according to the FDA this product supply was received from Apex Seafood in Indonesia”.

We believe that the high ratio of shipments of imported fish and seafood treated with carbon monoxide, in comparison to the small percentage of shipments actually imported, is troublesome.    This suggests that a great number of tainted fish shipments may be getting through,  due to the low overall percentage of  shipments not being inspected. Case in point:  the shipments that were recalled by Choyce and the recent shipment that was destroyed. 

We hope that our sign waving campaign will educate the consumers and prevent an untold number of them from getting sick from eating imported fish previously frozen and treated with carbon monoxide. 

Besides the health issues, we are also concerned that the imported fish is being caught by loosely regulated fisheries in foreign countries.  In the USA, our local long line fleet is subject to strict regulations in order to protect birds, sea turtles, marine mammals and other ocean life.