B.C. seafood company owner faces year in jail for illegally importing fish deemed unsafe to eat to US

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Seven Seas Fish Company owner John Heras pleaded guilty to importing four tonnes of fish had been refused entry due to spoilage, then was relabeled and imported into Western Washington, USA.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice news press release, the owner of the BC, Canada-based seafood seller Seven Seas Fish Company, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to the importation of previously refused food. The fish had previously been refused entry into the U.S., because the FDA judged samples of the fish too decomposed and putrid.

The family-owned business has been running since 1967. On its site, Seven Seas Fish Company sells a range of fish including wild smoked salmon.

According to records filed in the case, in June 2014, Seven Seas purchased around 5.5 tonnes a white fish similar to sea bass. The fish was purchased for USD36,375 from a seafood company in Mexico. Seven Seas attempted to have the fish imported into the U.S. at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

However, when Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Consumer Safety Officers examined the fish, they determined that one-third of the samples from the shipment were more than 20 per cent spoiled. The shipment was refused entry to the U.S. However, Seven Seas arranged for the fish to be lawfully shipped through the U.S. to its plant in Richmond, BC, claiming that the product would be distributed in Canada.

After the fish arrived in B.C., Heras cooked and ate some of the fish and claimed he found nothing wrong with it. Despite his knowledge that the fish had been refused entry to the U.S., he encouraged others within Seven Seas to sell the fish to customers in Washington State and elsewhere. Some 4 tonnes pounds of the fish were imported into the U.S. without the required notice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Seven Seas has agreed to pay a USD 150,000 fine. Heras, who is 78, could face to up to a year in prison when sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler next February.

The FDA has not found any illness linked to those who consumed the fish.