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Something's Fishy In Mississippi

MISSISSIPPI - Joey Tatum runs a Mississippi-delta eatery where catfish is king--and its origin clear. U.S. FARM RAISED, the menu of Fat Baby's proclaims. "There's no Chinese catfish in my restaurant," Tatum says. "Everyone knows they're not safe."

That's up to the FDA to decide, and over the years, its border inspectors have rejected tons of tainted catfish from China and closely monitored shipments by chronic offenders. Last month Mississippi officials decided to test Chinese catfish to see how good those controls are and found them wanting. Most grocery-store samples contained residues of two antibiotics that are banned for use in aquaculture in the U.S. but widely used in China. The catfish was ordered off store shelves.

These holes in the safety net are alarming public-health experts. China is the No. 1 exporter of seafood to the U.S.-- $2 billion worth last year--and has a troubling rate of violations. In 2006 nearly two-thirds of the seafood shipments that were turned back from U.S. ports because of residues of FDA-nonapproved drugs came from China, reported Food & Water Watch. The residues included malachite green, which kills fungus on fish--and causes tumors in lab rats.

The FDA is stepping up inspections of Chinese seafood. Still, only 5% of the 55,000 shipments last year were examined. Don Kraemer, the FDA's deputy director for food safety, acknowledged that border controls are not "completely airtight. But we've got a credible effort here to keep the products that would be of concern out of the country."

Source: Time

the Fish Site Editor

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