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Drug-Tainted Asian Fish Slip Into U.S., States Find

US - Basile, an Alabama state scientist, drops a frozen catfish filet into an industrial food processor and pulverizes it into a fluffy white powder.

A catfish sample is pulverized for testing

The grinding in a laboratory in Montgomery is part of a test of imported seafood for drugs that U.S. regulators say can cause cancer or increase resistance to antibiotics. Alabama officials have reported finding banned medicines missed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in seafood from China, Vietnam and other Asian countries.

"I'm sure that FDA would probably wish we'd go away," says Ron Sparks, commissioner of Alabama's Department of Agriculture and Industries, which conducts the seafood testing, in an interview. "My wish is that they'd come to the table and work with us."

Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana also have found banned drugs in imported seafood, according to statements by regulators in those states. The tests, conducted after the products cleared U.S. ports and were sent on for sale in grocery stores or restaurants, show the FDA isn't adequately protecting consumers from tainted fish, food safety advocates said.

The FDA says it does a good job of keeping unsafe products out of the food supply. In June, the agency began blocking imports of some farm-raised seafood from China until importers provide test results showing shipments are free of banned drugs.