FDA Blocks Some Fish From China

Agency Will Detain Some Shipments Because of Worries About Additives

By Todd Zwillich
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

June 28, 2007 -- Federal regulators on Thursday announced a crackdown on seafood imported from China, saying the imports contain antibiotics and other potentially harmful additives.

The FDA said it would detain all shipments of five kinds of farmed seafood imports from China. The species include catfish, shrimp, basa, eel, and dace, a fish similar to carp.

Officials said they believed consumers are not at immediate risk from the fish but that testing revealed contamination levels that could be unsafe over the long term. The FDA placed restrictions on some eel coming from China in 2001, though officials said producers there continued to export contaminated products.

"There's been a critical pattern of violation with no signs of abatement," David Acheson, MD, the FDA's assistant commissioner for food protection, told reporters.

China is the third largest exporter of seafood to the U.S.

The FDA is not recalling products that are already out on the market. Consumers can eat seafood that has already been purchased.

Testing between last fall and May 2007 showed levels of several antibiotic agents, including nitrofuran, malachite green, and gentian violet, officials said. None of those drugs is approved for such use in the U.S. Antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones were also found in the seafood. These agents are used to prevent the growth of fungus, bacteria, and parasites in the seafood.

Fluoroquinolone drugs are used in humans but could lead to antibiotic resistance if chronically consumed in food, officials said. The FDA also reports that long-term exposure to nitrofuran, malachite green, and gentian violet have been shown to cause cancer in studies of animals.

Acheson said that 15% of shipments from 18 different Chinese producers tested positive for at least one of the chemicals. The FDA said it would now detain all Chinese shipments of the five species until independent tests prove they are free of contaminants.

Several states with fish industries undercut by Chinese imports have instituted their own testing schemes on Asian seafood shipments. Officials from China and other countries have complained that the U.S. is using its public health agencies to undermine Asian exports.

SOURCES: Import Alert #16-131, FDA, June 28, 2007. David Acheson, MD, assistant commissioner for food protection, FDA. News release, FDA. FDA web site: Questions and Answers on FDA's Import Alert on Farm-Raised Seafood from China.

© 2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.



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