In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) reported refusing 203 entry lines of imported shrimp for reasons related to veterinary drug residues. The number of refusals was not only substantially higher than what FDA had refused in the prior three years, refusals increased in frequency as the year wore on. In fact, in the second half of 2014 more than twice the number of shrimp import entry lines (139) were refused for reasons related to veterinary drug residues than in the first half of 2014 (64).
The FDA has now released refusal data for January 2015 demonstrating that this trend has accelerated even further. For the month of January, the FDA reported refusing 185 entry lines of fishery/seafood imports. Of these, 58 – or nearly one-third – are comprised of entry lines of shrimp refused for reasons related to veterinary drug residues.
These data indicate that the FDA refused more entry lines of shrimp for banned antibiotics in January 2015 than for the entire year of 2012. Moreover, the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s review of monthly refusal data going back to 2011 shows that the highest number of shrimp entry line refusals related to veterinary drug residues in a month had been 42 in January 2011.
Consistent with the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s recent letter to the FDA, shrimp shipped from Malaysia continue to drive the record numbers. Of the 58 antibiotic-related shrimp entry line refusals last month, 42 were of shrimp shipped from Malaysia. This one month total is more than the number of entry lines of shrimp shipped from Malaysia refused for similar reasons in all of 2012 and 2013 combined.
Malaysia’s past history as a conduit for transshipped Chinese merchandise suggests that at least some of the shrimp currently being refused by the FDA would have otherwise been kept away from U.S. consumers based on the agency’s Import Alert on farmed Chinese shrimp.
However, the FDA’s actions in January were not limited to shipments of shrimp from Malaysia. In addition, the agency reported refusing another sixteen entry lines of shrimp shipped from either Vietnam (15) or India (1) for reasons related to veterinary drug residues. The three shippers involved are each a significant supplier to this market and each carry certifications under the Best Aquaculture Practices program (“BAP”):
- Ngoc Tri Seafood Joint Stock Company (7 entry lines refused for veterinary drug residues), certified as a 2-star production group for shrimp and as a certified shrimp processor under BAP;
- Quoc Viet Seaproducts Processing (8 entry lines refused for veterinary drug residues), certified as a 2-star production group for shrimp and as a certified shrimp processor under BAP; and
- Devi Fisheries Ltd. (1 entry line refused for nitrofurans), certified as both a 3-star and 2-star production group for shrimp and as a certified shrimp processor under BAP.
These refusals are consistent with industry and government reporting that banned antibiotics continue to be utilized in Vietnamese and Indian shrimp aquaculture.
Just last week, a website administered by the Vietnam Industry and Trade Information Center (VITIC) of Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade carried an article regarding the Vietnamese seafood industry stating:
The Vietnamese seafood industry, especially the shrimp industry, still does not use reliable farming processes to prevent diseases and ensure the quality of its products. Currently, farmers are using large amounts of antibiotics in order to save sick shrimp ponds.
Further, in March of 2014 the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the Health and Consumers Directorate-General of the European Commission conducted an audit of India’s regulation of veterinary medicinal products. The FVO published its findings in September, acknowledging that while there had been some improvements in limiting the export of contaminated seafood, controls at the farm level remained deficient. The Executive Summary of the FVO’s report explained:
The residue monitoring plan is implemented in accordance with planned arrangements and in line with EU rules and meets minimum requirements laid down in EU legislation (for testing of aquaculture shrimp but not finfish). However a relatively narrow range of substances is tested for and no account is taken of the range of substances actually used in fish and shrimp production in the country. As such, guarantees on the residues status of aquaculture products rely to a large extent on the additional pre-harvest and pre-export testing programmes in place and these mitigate to a certain extent the long-standing deficiencies in official controls on farms, and in particular, an almost total absence of official controls on the use of veterinary medicinal products. Nevertheless, the relatively narrow range of substances tested for in those additional programmes also weakens the reliability of those guarantees. With regard to the follow-up of non-compliant results, some improvements have been noted relative to 2011 (for example progress made on the registration of farms), nevertheless, it remains the case that followup at primary producer level to identify the root cause of the non-compliance is ‘delegated’ almost fully to the export establishments which is not in line with EU requirements.
The FDA’s efforts over the last several months represent a crackdown on shrimp imports contaminated with banned antibiotics. This additional scrutiny is vital to eliminating the use of antibiotics in aquaculture, but it should not be necessary. The FDA’s findings, particularly over the last seven months, are a depressing demonstration of the continued tolerance by U.S. importers and seafood distributors for the use of banned antibiotics in shrimp aquaculture. For those companies that supply shrimp to U.S. consumers, there are a large number of sources of farmed shrimp available that do not raise concerns regarding the use of banned antibiotics. The only downside for sourcing from these countries is the need to pay higher prices for shrimp.
Nevertheless, until the seafood industry decides to turn away from cheap, contaminated shrimp imports, the FDA will continue to play a vital role in discouraging the use of antibiotics in overseas aquaculture. The Southern Shrimp Alliance recognizes that this responsibility taxes the agency’s limited resources and greatly appreciates the exceptional work of those on the front line safeguarding the food supply.
Read Vietnamese Seafood Exports Strong in 2014 but Difficult to Maintain in 2015 (Jan. 28, 2015) by the Vietnam Industry and Trade Information Center (VITIC): http://asemconnectvietnam.gov.vn/default.aspx?ZID1=8&ID8=32832&ID1=2
Read the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the Health and Consumers Directorate-General of the European Commission’s Final Report of an Audit Carried Out in India from 03 to 14 March 2014: In Order to Evaluate the Control of Residues and Contaminants in Live Animals and Animal Products Including Controls of Veterinary Medicinal Products, DG(SANCO) 2014-7029 – MR Final (September 2014):