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FDA Team To Test Safety of Chilean Salmon Sites

CHILE - Officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) arrived in Chile at the end of last week to conduct on-site inspections of the its salmon industry.

A report by news agency Mercopress says that the FDA will visit five specific sites and testing for Malachite Green - a fungicide thought to be carcinogenic. It will also monitor sites for four different kinds of Flouroquinolones (antibiotics) and plans to test Chilean salmon for Crystal Violet, also a fungicide. In late 2006, health authorities in Great Britain detected Cyrstal Violet in a shipment of Chilean salmon exported originally by industry leader Marine Harvest.

What is not clear is whether the FDA visit is a routinely scheduled event, or if it comes in response to recent media coverage raising questions about the relative health of Chilean salmon.

Late last month the New York Times published a scathing article entitled “Salmon Virus Indicts Chile’s Fishing Methods,” which among other things aired concerns about the industry’s alleged overuse of antibiotics. Just days after the article appeared, Safeway, one of the largest food retailers in the United States, went public with a decision to reduce purchases of Chilean salmon.

Andrea Kavanagh, Manager of the Marine Aquaculture Campaign, Pew Environment Group has welcomed the the US FDA inspection of Chilean seafood facilities. She said the public needs to know what type of tests the Chilean government and its national fisheries service, Sernapesca, conduct on farmed salmon and how many samples of Chilean farmed salmon are tested annually.

"In contrast with Norway and Scotland, two of the world's largest producers of farmed salmon, Chile has not been forthcoming with adequate data on the amount of antibiotics, antifoulants and other chemicals used, mortalities, waste emissions and sea lice loads," she said in a statement.

Protecting Consumers

She also noted that since the FDA's Food Protection Plan was designed to provide 'an integrated strategy for protecting the nation's food supply,' it should further scrutinise the Chilean salmon farming industry.

The United States imported 114,320 net tons of salmon from Chile in 2007, but the FDA only tested 40 samples.

"To get more accurate data, the FDA needs a much larger sampling size and should test for a wider range of chemicals and antibiotics including Emamectin benzoate and Amphenicols," said Ms Kavanagh.

She hopes that US FDA inspectors and the Chilean government will combine their efforts to ensure Chilean farmed salmon is safe for the US market and the marine environment.

View the Mercopress story by clicking here.