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West Bengal bans use of 20 antibiotics in the shrimp sector

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The West Bengal Fisheries department has banned 20 antibiotics and other pharmacologically active substances that are commonly used in shrimp aquaculture.

Farmed shrimp

The state fisheries department has banned 20 antibiotics and other pharmacologically active substances from use in shrimp

The ban, which was reported in the Millennium Post on 8 August, comes after India’s main drug regulatory body asked states and union territories to restrict the availability and use of regulated veterinary antibiotics in the aquaculture sector. The ban focuses on India’s shrimp industry, where concerns over antibiotic residues and the potential for developing antimicrobial resistant bacteria have been long documented.

The Fisheries Department has formed district level task force committees (TFCs) with eight members to tackle the issue. They are headed by District Magistrates from the affected areas. The decision to ban the antibiotics came after the chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) wrote to the secretary of the Ministry of Health, requesting that the agency take “effective measures” to restrict the availability and usage of restricted antibiotics in all food-producing animals – including shrimps and other finfish.

The TFCs will make frequent raids or random checks at shops, manufacturing units and suppliers of drugs, probiotics, chemicals feeds and other farm goods and take action on any unauthorised possession of the antibiotics.

"The TFC should ensure that the aqua shops do not sell veterinary grade products and encourage aqua grade drugs registered with CAA (Coastal Aquaculture Authority) only. Use of banned aqua products will attract huge penalty or cancellation of license for the concerned aqua shop," a senior official of the department told the Millennium Post.

According to sources in the state Fisheries department, shrimp importing nations have become stricter about India’s aquaculture practices. The EU has increased spot tests for antibiotic residue in Indian shrimp exports and US regulators have rejected some shipments of Indian shrimp after detecting antibiotic molecules.

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