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Salmonella Sushi: First Lawsuit Filed On 'Tuna Scrape'-Linked Outbreak

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The first lawsuit stemming from salmonella-tainted sushi linked to a recent nationwide outbreak has officially been filed.

Moon Marine, a California fish processor, recently recalled 58,828 pounds of a frozen raw yellowfin tuna after it was linked to an outbreak of salmonella bareilly. The tuna was packaged as "Nakaochi Scrape AA" or "AAA," which are terms used to describe backmeat that's shaved off fish bones and added to products like ground yellowfin tuna. It's often used in sushi.

The suit, filed by two Wisconsin women, claims they were dangerously sickened after eating tuna sushi rolls that contained Nakaochi Scrape at a local restaurant. Although most salmonella infections last only about a week, the women's cases were much more severe and required hospitalization. One of the women was diagnosed with an ulcerated colon, which the lawsuit alleges also stems from the infection.

Over the past two months, Nakaochi Scrape has been linked to 140 cases of salmonella. Ron Simon, a lawyer for two alleged salmonella sushi victims, told MSNBC that the tuna product "looks like ground tuna hamburger."

Some have made a comparison between tuna scrape and "pink slime," the ammonia-treated "lean finely textured beef" product that's been making headlines and turning stomachs since March. Both are ground, separated from bones and have a pinkish mush-like appearance.

NPR recently asked Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, about the safety of eating tuna scrape. Doyle said he questioned whether grinding the fish creates the potential for contamination, an issue well-known with meats like chicken, turkey and beef. Adding to the issue, fish for sushi is usually served raw, which means germs aren't killed during any cooking process.

But comparisons may be superficial at best. Food Safety News spoke with Ken Gall, Extension Associate at Cornell University and member of the National Seafood HACCP Alliance Steering Committee, who told the publication, "I don't think it's a fair comparison at all," adding that pink slime "is a product that's treated, and treated in a way to sterilize it, which is going to coagulate protein and be a whole different process."

Tuna scrape, on the other hand, isn't treated with any sort of chemical. FDA officials said earlier this month that it was too early to comment on why the tuna was tainted.

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