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FDA Must Improve Imported Farmed Fish Testing

18 May 2011

US - A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has admitted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s fish safety programme for imported farmed fish is “limited”.

Around half of the seafood imported into the US comes from farmed fish (aquaculture). Fish grown in this environment can often have bacterial infections, which may require farmers to use drugs like antibiotics. The residues of some of these drugs can cause cancer and antibiotic resistance.

When comparing the FDA inspection programme to the EU's equivalent, the GAO found that most inspections consist of reviewing paperwork and health and safety checks rather than actually visiting the fish farms or sampling the actual fish. Some drugs which have been approved for aquaculture in the EU are still banned in the US and therefore without the adequate testing, residues of these drugs may still be entering the US market.

In 2009, the FDA only tested around 0.1 per cent of imported seafood products for drug residues, a shockingly low figure. “Further, FDA's sampling programme is ineffectively implemented”, the report said. “For example, for fiscal years 2006 through 2009, FDA missed its assignment plan goal for collecting import samples by about 30 per cent”.

“Better leveraging available resources is critical, especially in places like China, where FDA has inspected 1.5 per cent of Chinese seafood processing facilities in the last six years”, the GAO said.

The GAO recommended that foreign countries that want to export seafood to the US should be required to develop a national residues monitoring plan to control the use of aquaculture drugs. It said the FDA should also develop a “more comprehensive” screening programme.

TheFishSite News Desk



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