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State to begin testing imported seafood

US - The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will start testing imported seafood for the presence of antibiotics and chemical contaminants next month. The agency also will strengthen the scope of economic fraud investigations in the seafood industry.

"This will be an aggressive program that will test all types of imported seafood," said Joseph Reardon, director of the Food and Drug Protection Division at the department.

Reardon said testing for antibiotics in the fluoroquinolones family is scheduled to begin June 1.

Fluoroquinolones, such as ciprofloxacin, are used to treat severe, life-threatening infections in humans.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the use of the antibiotics in fish and animals raised for human consumption, but the drugs are used in some overseas fish farms to ward off diseases that can spread rapidly through fish and shrimp pens.

The state Department of Agriculture also will test for the presence of other prohibited chemicals, such as malachite green.

A suspected carcinogen, malachite green is banned in the use of aquaculture operations in the United States, but has been detected in fish and eels imported from China where it is sometimes used by fish-farmers to treat parasites and fungal and bacterial infections.

"We've adopted a zero-tolerance policy for these chemicals," Reardon told the Sentinel. He said the state was in the final stages of ensuring that the testing program meets validated scientific standards.

Reardon said that investigating economic fraud also is critical in protecting seafood consumers in North Carolina.

Investigations across the country, using DNA, testing have found that fish advertised as high-priced species, such as grouper or red snapper, on restaurant menus can sometimes be Asian catfish, tilapia, or another inexpensive species.

Source: Outer Banks Sentinel

the Fish Site Editor

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