80-six per cent of our seafood is imported, and about half of those imports are raised on factory farms, called aquaculture.Asia is the number one producer of these aquaculture products, dominating 89 per cent of the industry, and most of our farmed fish imports come from there, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reports.
Because of shortcuts some farmers are taking in these regions, these products aren’t always safe and FDA testing of them hasn’t caught up, a Mother Jones article by Tom Philpott suggests.
Here are some prime examples of the type of disgusting shortcuts that the Asian fish and shrimp farms do to save a few bucks, from Philpott’s article and a Bloomberg Markets report by Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen and William Bi:
- Tilapia in China’s fish farms, are fed pig and goose manure — even though it contains salmonella and makes the tilapia “more susceptible to disease.”
- In Vietnam, farmed shrimp bound for the US market are kept fresh with heaps of ice made from tap water that teems with pathogenic bacteria.
- Bloomberg also notes that at the same company “there’s trash on the floor, and flies crawl over baskets of processed shrimp stacked in an unchilled room.”
- Like US meat farmers, Asia’s shrimp farmers rely heavily on antibiotics, many of which are banned for use in the United States.
- In May, ABC News bought 30 samples of imported farmed shrimp from across the country and had them tested for antibiotic traces. The result: Three of the samples contained detectable levels of these dangerous antibiotics.
- According to a recent study by the centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a quarter of the food-borne illness outbreaks caused by imported food from 2005 to 2010 involved seafood — more than any other food commodity.
Philpott goes on to explain that the US FDA does very little testing — about 2.7 per cent of incoming aquaculture is visually inspected, and even less, about 0.1 per cent is tested for toxins. He writes:
When the agency does test, it does find. For example, in 2008, GAO found, the FDA tested only 34 shrimp samples for residues of nitrofurans—a chemical not approved in the United States for aquaculture and one specifically singled out in Kraemer’s FDA testimony for its ability to cause cancer. Six of the samples tested positive.
Why don’t they ramp up testing? Philpott suggests that it’s not just a lack of funding to do the tests — but also a political decision not to anger partners like China. Read Philpott’s article for more details.
Testing in 2009 that found illegal antibiotics in three types of imported fish from China did result in a temporary ban on these seafoods, but that was lifted and doesn’t seem to have had a lasting effect on how the industry does business, judging by these recent reports.
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