When you think of tainted seafood, you may think of the Gulf oil spill. But 80 percent of the fish and shrimp Americans eat actually comes from overseas.
Most imported seafood, including shrimp, is from large fish farms in Asia, including China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.
There are also seafood or fish farms in Canada, Mexico, and South America that export to the U.S. and others countries.
Fish farming is just that. Breeding, cultivating, and harvesting fish from ponds, drainage ditches, or cages in lakes and even the open sea.
There are also green houses with large containers of water. Unusual tropical fish, catfish, and salmon are farmed and sometimes deceptively sold as wild caught.
Farmed Fish and shrimp pro and con
Proponents of fish farming point out that it’s more ecological since wild fish areas are invaded less as fish farms proliferate. Of course, there is the added incentive of not having to resort to seafaring vessels or fleets to come in with catches. Fish farming is more reliable and less expensive.
Since recent innovations of stacking indoor pools for breading shrimp was innovated, there is an incredible amount of farmed jumbo shrimp that is retailed and used in restaurants. These stacked pools permit up to 25 kilograms of shrimp to be bred in one cubic meter of water.
The stacked pool idea was spawned in Texas. So less farmed shrimp is imported now than a few years ago. But that doesn’t preclude antibiotics, bacterial, and chemical contamination from getting into those stacked pools.
Just like massive factory farms for sending hoofed meat to slaughter houses, there are problems with overcrowding and feeding in fish farms. Antibiotics are used in crowed aquatic conditions. And what they are fed can include even salmonella laced pig feces, as discovered in several Chinese fish farms.
FDA oversight grossly lacking
While the FDA orchestrates raids on raw milk providers, alternative cancer clinics, supplement companies, and issues threatening letters to nut and fruit growers for promoting actual scientific health findings on their products, they barely sniff imported seafood or locally farmed fish and shrimp from a distance.
According to the CDC, 44 percent of the 39 food borne illness outbreaks caused by imports from 2005 to 2010 involved seafood. In 2011, 91 percent of the 4.7 billion pounds of seafood consumed in the U.S. was imported. The FDA tested samples from only two percent of this at best. It seems 2012 was a better year.
They inspected 330 samples of Vietnamese farmed shrimp exported to Little Rock, Arkansas, and found 67 samples containing the bacteria Klebsiella, which is resistant to most antibiotics and causes urinary infections and pneumonia.
In addition to bacterial contamination, certain antibiotics used in fish farming are problematic. Residues of nitrofuran antibiotics have been discovered in imported farm fish. Nitrofurans are carcinogenic.
A U.S. wild shrimp trade association, the Southern Shrimp Alliance, complained to the FDA recently that three Vietnamese shrimp farms were ordered to test all their exports with Canadian authorities after extremely dangerous fluoroquinolone antibiotics were detected. But the FDA did nothing for U.S. imports from those companies.
The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) claims to pick up the slack from FDA’s inadequate screening. Their Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) label supposedly assures your seafood is totally safe. But the GAA is a fox guarding hen house industry group of seafood provider executives.
The University of Victoria’s Seafood Ecology Research Group placed the BAP seal at 16th out of 20 total certifications for seafood safety standards.
Inadequate food safety screening for imported seafood leaves us with equally ignored, locally farmed fish and shrimp as well as wild fish and shrimp from our BP Corexit contaminated gulf. It’s time to be very picky about seafood.