Chinese seafood import assurances met with caution

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
16 August 2007, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - Assurances from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority about the safety of imported Chinese seafood following a one-off test on a sample of just 31 items should be met with caution, the Green Party says.

"The NZFSA has assured us that only low levels of drug residues were found, however one of these antibiotics, nitrofuran, is banned from use in food producing animals in the European Union and in the United States because it is considered to be a carcinogen," Green's Food Safety Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"I am shocked at the casual attitude of the authority to the finding of nitrofuran residues in imported Chinese seafood. Other countries withdraw the seafood from the market when they find these levels, but we give them a clean bill of health.

"The authority only agreed to conduct tests for antibiotic residues on imported Chinese prawns after I raised concerns. This followed a US suspension of imports of farmed fish after repeated contamination was identified there,"

"These results simply don't inspire confidence, especially when you consider that around 740,000 kilograms of prawns and shrimps were imported last year and the authority tested just 31 samples.

"Prior to this sampling, the last time any tests were carried out by NZFSA was in 2004/05. As far as I am concerned, there should be regular testing to ensure that New Zealand consumers are not being exposed to potentially harmful contaminants.

"The United States of America, which tests far more frequently, have found contamination in seafood imported from China. The constant breaches had prompted the government there to impose a block at the border preventing shipments from entering the country till testing could prove they contained no drug residues.

"Australian authorities recently found one-third of samples of prawns, fish, crabs and eels imported from China were contaminated by banned antibiotics. Bans have been imposed on imports of raw prawns from countries that are not disease-free.

"In my opinion this lack of testing is putting New Zealand consumers at risk," Ms Kedgley says.