Shrimp, Clams & Oysters

importing bad news

According to BerkeleyWellness, some 85 percent of the seafood Americans consume is imported. And much of that is farm-raised (a practice called aquaculture) in Asia and elsewhere in the developing world. The problem is that other countries may have different standards for aquaculture, sometimes employing drugs banned here. The study estimates the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) checks just two percent of imports for contaminants. The FDA’s oversight of the safety of imported seafood is limited—an understatement, indeed. And shrimp tops the list

Most seafood imports flagged for food safety violations never get audited.

Rodent filth, drug residue, undeclared allergens, Salmonella—these are just a handful of the health violations that impelled the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to block large batches of seafood imports in recent years. The violations, once detected through precautionary testing, lead to what are known as “import alerts,” which FDA uses to detain subsequent shipments from the same region or company on the basis that they are likely to present similar concerns. A government watchdog reviewed hundreds of instances where the FDA granted exemptions to potentially risky seafood importers. The agency failed to inspect 95 percent of them.

Fish on Ice
Fish Market

Tainted Seafood Reaching U.S., Food Safety Experts Say

Filthy seafood infected with bacteria or tainted with drugs and antibiotics banned in the U.S. is finding its way onto the plates of health-conscious Americans, according to state and federal officials, consumer advocates, academics and food safety experts.

The U.S. imported more than 17.6 million tons of seafood in the last decade, according to a News21 analysis of import data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only about 1 percent is inspected, and only 0.1 percent is tested for banned drug residues, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

U.S. Food and Agricultural Imports: Safeguards and Selected Issues

High-profile foodborne outbreaks and incidents involving imported foods have

generated growing concerns about whether current federal programs sufficiently ensure the safety of these imports. Safety concerns have been associated with imported products from China, Mexico, and nations in Central and South America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and elsewhere. Imports of fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, and pet foods are among those that have been associated with foodborne outbreaks and incidents.

Fishing Net
Fishing Net Closeup

dangers of imported seafood

According to Consumer Reports, the US consumes almost 18 million servings a day of shrimp. And most of that shrimp is imported. Every now and then word goes around about rejected food shipments from China, usually accompanied by truly alarming accounts of the conditions where fish and shrimp are raised for food and sometimes even the tales from ABC News’ independent testing of shrimp purchased in grocery stores around the country (the shrimp had detectable levels of dangerous antibiotics).