Portland Shellfish Co. is scheduled to restart production next week at its crab processing plant in South Portland, which was shut down by federal officials two months ago because of food safety violations.

About 50 workers are due to return to their jobs at the plant on Dartmouth Street, which was cited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for unsanitary conditions such as a leaking roof.

The FDA has given its approval for the plant to reopen, company President Jeff Holden said Wednesday. “We will open the first part of the week,” he said.

Portland Shellfish Co.’s plant on Waldron Way in Portland, which employs another 50 people, has not yet been cleared to resume lobster processing, Holden said. The plant was shut down for listeria contamination, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections.

“The only plant they are permitted to process at is the Dartmouth Street facility,” said Douglas Karas, an FDA spokesman.

Holden said his company completed extensive renovations and improvements at both plants to meet FDA requirements. New testing procedures and measures to ensure sanitary conditions were worked out.


The company signed a consent decree on Jan. 21, agreeing to meet FDA operating conditions. Holden has been waiting since then for FDA approval to restart the operations.

He said some workers were laid off because of the shutdowns, and others remained on the job during the shrimp season while the Portland plant continued to process raw shrimp. The shrimp season closed this week, and the plant will be idle until the lobster season starts in May.

Holden said Gov. Paul LePage, state officials and Maine’s congressional delegation helped speed up the FDA process.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that without a quick resolution, the company could close permanently.

“Food safety requirements have to be met, but don’t place an unreasonable burden on this company,” Pingree wrote.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also helped the company work through the FDA requirements.


Holden said he doesn’t know how the shutdowns will affect his business. “We have to win everyone back,” he said.

Portland Shellfish processes about 13 million pounds of raw lobster, shrimp and crab a year. It ships more than 5 million pounds of finished products to retailers in Massachusetts, California, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, New Jersey and Louisiana.

Holden said he has been flooded with calls from fishermen and customers who are eager to know when the company will resume its operations. 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:


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