FDA Testing Fewer Seafood Imports

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
2 June 2007, at 1:00am

US - As seafood imports rise, the percentage of shipments receiving laboratory test inspections has fallen over the past four years, from a 0.88 percent in 2003 to 0.59 percent in 2006. This was among the findings of a new Food & Water Watch report showing how the Food and Drug Administration's failure to adequately inspect imports could contribute to foodborne illnesses or other health problems among U.S. seafood consumers.

"The Food & Drug Administration can't find what it's not looking for. FDA's appalling record on inspecting seafood imports is irresponsible and poses a real threat to both the health of the American Public and to homeland security," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "Congress should take immediate action to restore the funding they cut for inspection of foreign processing plants and fund FDA at appropriate levels to protect American consumers."

Inadequate funding and a mediocre inspection program contributed to FDA physically inspecting less than two percent of the 860,000 imported seafood shipments in 2006. The report's analysis of FDA border refusals of imported seafood shipments from 2003 to 2006 revealed some troubling trends:

  • More than 70 percent of refused imports were processed seafood products, which are exempt from country of origin labeling requirements that the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees.

  • More than 20 percent of all import refusals were due to Salmonella. Of those, more than 40 percent were shrimp, the most popular seafood among Americans.

  • The government is refusing more seafood because of veterinary drug residues. More than 60 percent of the refused imports in 2006 were from China.

The organization's analysis highlighted risks from farm-raised seafood imports. The United States imports more than 80 percent of its seafood, much of it from industrial fish farm operations in Asia and Latin America. These operations satisfy the surging demand for seafood by cramming together fish under unsanitary conditions that spread disease and parasites. Consequently, many aquaculture facilities use antibiotics and chemicals that often are illegal in the United States and that can leave residues in the fish that people eat.

Food & Water Watch recommends that FDA inspect more shipments of seafood coming into the United States and the foreign facilities where they are grown and processed. The group calls on Congress to increase funding to improve imported seafood safety and on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand country of origin labeling requirements to cover processed seafood and seafood in all stores and restaurants.

Further Information

To view the report, please click here