November 11, 2011

U.S. Testing of Seafood Imports Falls Short

Center for a Livable Future

Center for a Livable Future

A Center for a Livable Future study, published recently in Environmental Science and Technology, shows that testing of imported seafood by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is inadequate for confirming its safety or identifying risks.

About 85 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and most of those imports are produced in overseas fish farms, where drugs may be administered to the fish to treat and prevent fish diseases. In terms of food safety, imported seafood is one of the most significant high-risk foods, and FDA oversees the safety of imports. CLF researchers David Love, PhD, and colleagues believed it was important to measure and evaluate the degree to which imported seafood is tested for drug residues.

The findings highlight deficiencies in inspection programs for imported seafood across four of the world’s largest importing bodies and show which types of aquatic animals, and from which countries, are most often failing inspection. The study identified a lack of inspection in the U.S. compared to its peers: only 2 percent of all seafood imported into the U.S. is tested for contamination, while the European Union, Japan and Canada inspect as much as 50 percent, 18 percent, and 15 percent of certain imported seafood products. When testing in the U.S. does occur, residues of drugs used in aquaculture, or “fish farms,” are sometimes found; above certain concentrations, these drugs are harmful to humans.

The researchers acquired data on inspection programs from governmental websites, published literature, and direct queries to governmental bodies (including FOIA); they then examined violations data as a function of species of aquatic animals, exporting country, drug types, and concentrations. The authors of the study are David Love, Sarah Rodman, Roni Neff, and Keeve Nachman.

The study, which may be accessed here, contains data about types of seafood and exporting countries’ violations. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health news release refers to some of this data also.

Some of the findings have been covered by Tim Wheeler in his blogpost in the Baltimore Sun’s B’More Green blog.  NPR’s The Salt covered some of the findings, as well.

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