December 9th, 2019
Seven Seas’ statement on sentencing from 2014 incident
In October, John Heras and Seven Seas plead to a misdemeanour violation of failure to report a previous refusal of a food product prior to re-entry into the U.S. The company agreed to a fine of $150,000. On Dec. 6, at sentencing, John Heras was ordered to pay an additional fine of $2,000 and given one-year probation, while the company was given three-years’ probation and ordered to pay its fine within six months of today. This brings closure to an incident that occurred several years ago.
Now that the matter is no longer before the courts, we would like to state the following:
We can assure you, Seven Seas takes the quality of our products and the safety of our customers very seriously — and we have done so for more than 50 years. We have vigorously defended the quality and safety of the 2014 fish shipment in question. The lesser misdemeanour plea reflects this.
Various laboratory and expert analysis by third-parties, as well as by Seven Seas, concluded the fish shipment was of the quality we expect – and met food quality and safety standards. The FDA lab test found no abnormal bacteria counts. Our shipment was rejected through an organoleptic (sight and smell) analysis by FDA personnel who determined a portion of the samples didn’t meet a certain quality threshold.
We understand that exporting products into the U.S. is a privilege, not a right. While we acknowledge our role in this matter and understand how our approach and communications with authorities should have been handled more proactively, at no time did we put customer health and safety at risk or accept and distribute sub-par quality.
Importantly, we have learned from the event in question and have invested in more modernized and regimented processes, tools and training to ensure rigorous regulatory compliance and quality management. Our company founder, John Heras, is no longer active in the business.
We participate and comply with many inspection and quality programs undertaken by governments and customers alike. We are a HACCP/QMP and SQF Level II certified facility, as well as a CFIA and US FDA approved plant. We also embrace sustainability as a responsibility. We are a recognized partner of the Ocean Wise Conservation program, Marine Stewardship Council certified and a member of Sea Choice. We continue to meet and exceed all standards, ratings and audits. All of our entries to the U.S have cleared in 2019 (~ 99.9% since 2016).
As part of this case, we disagree with the characterizations of two previous events in 2008 and 2009 that were cited. Neither were criminal nor impacted the quality of our products and the safety of our customers.
You may have questions. We wish to be fully transparent. So, we’d like to provide you the same facts we gave as statement of record in court.
The attorney stated that in 2008, “Canadian salmon owned by the company was seized because it was sold in violation of Canadian law” as a result of illegal gill netting. Seven Seas was not a direct party to this.
We worked with a Buying Agent who sourced fish from the Fraser River, which has many suppliers from First Nations fishermen. The Buying Agent represented to Seven Seas that it had made some deals with First Nations fishermen, and that Canadian First Nations fishing entities had made arrangements to barter fish with other U.S. First Nations. Some of the fish — meant for the Buying Agent and First Nations, and never bought or sold by Seven Seas— was unfortunately co-mingled with fish that had been lawfully caught and purchased by Seven Seas. All of the fish was then transported together for processing. Unfortunately, this resulted in an inability to track which fish had been legally caught and purchased by Seven Seas, and which fish were bartered among the First Nations entities that were destined elsewhere. All of the fish was seized in lot. Seven Seas did not challenge the seizure as it (1) would have involved sorting the fish one by one to establish which were the fish legally purchased by Seven Seas and, (2) most importantly, we could not guarantee the traceability of the product. We no longer work with this Buying Agent.
The attorney stated that in in 2009, Seven Seas was fined $50,000 for selling salmon without notifying regulators after the fish had been detained because it was found unfit for human consumption. This is misleading. The fish in question was never intended for human consumption – it was from a roe fishery and the end-of-life-cycle salmon was to be ground and sold for pet food. It was cited that we processed the fish for pet food instead of having the fish “hold intact” (“as is”), which in our judgment likely would lead to spoiling, during their review period. This statement is correct. After the original sample at the border failed inspection, Seven Seas worked with the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Customs to verify the traceability of the pet food and roe/caviar products. The products were then shipped to Vancouver.
In both instances, we fully co-operated with the FDA and U.S. Customs. In both instances, the quality of our products and the safety of our customers were not affected.
We are dedicated to continuous quality improvement. We have learned from this event and continue to invest in training, procedures and technology to ensure we comply with all shipping regulations and authorities around the world. We stand by our people and the quality of our products, and you can trust in the shipments provided by Seven Seas.
CEO, Seven Seas Fish Co. Ltd