Very few drugs are approved for use in domestic fish farming. However, drugs like flouroquinolones ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin are routinely used in fish farm operations in Asia. These drug residues could result in life threatening allergic reactions and may encourage the development of drug resistant bacteria.
The Food & Water Watch analysis found that 113 veterinary drug-containing seafood imports had been refused from January to April of this year, compared to 125 refusals for all of 2006. Of these refusals, the FDA halted 78 shipments from China for veterinary drug contamination - most of it catfish and shrimp.
The imports were rejected because they contained drugs used in overseas fish farming that are considered unsafe and not approved for use in the U.S.
Under an amendment passed this week by the U.S. Senate, the FDA will get greater authority to inspect imported seafood for safety. The legislation has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives.
The Congressional action comes in the wake of recent bans on Chinese catfish passed by the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Concerns about contaminated food imports have grown since it was discovered earlier this year that Chinese wheat gluten containing melamine, a chemical that boosts the gluten's apparent protein content, made its way into pet food and feed for livestock. The tainted pet food was blamed for numerous pet deaths and illnesses across the US.