The Wall Street Journal reports:
WASHINGTON—The Food and Drug Administration is doing a poor job
ensuring that imported seafood doesn't pose health risks to Americans,
failing to properly assess foreign producers and inspect the products
they ship to the U.S., according to a congressional research report
Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, said in a statement
Monday that a new food-safety law passed this year by Congress will
improve the agency's ability monitor the safety of imported seafood.
About half of the seafood the U.S. imports comes from foreign fish
farms, and the fish grown there are prone to bacterial infections that
are often treated with antibiotics and other drugs not approved in the
U.S., the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, said in the report.
"The residues of some drugs can cause cancer and antibiotic resistance," the GAO said.
The U.S. imported about $14.7 billion of seafood last year, up from
$13.1 billion in 2009, according to data maintained by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
The FDA's efforts to evaluate seafood imports generally consist of
the agency reviewing records of importers and processors in the U.S.
"The [FDA] inspectors generally do not visit the farms to evaluate
drug use or the capabilities, competence, and quality control of
laboratories that analyze the seafood," according to the report.
The FDA has "conducted foreign country assessments in five countries
to gather information about those countries' aquaculture programs," the
GAO said, but the U.S. agency is limited by its lack of "procedures,
criteria, and standards" to make those assessments.
The FDA and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries
Service reached an agreement in 2009 to improve how imported seafood is
monitored, but the agencies have only made "limited progress," the GAO
The FDA, in 2009, tested only about 0.1% of all the seafood imported
in the U.S. for drug residues, and the agency relies on just seven of
its 13 laboratories to do the testing, the GAO said.
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