Through the first third of this year, shrimp imports from Vietnam have more than doubled in volume from the first four months in 2013. Currently, Vietnam is the fourth largest shrimp supplier to the U.S. market – more shrimp from Vietnam has been imported into the United States this year than from Thailand.
The incredible growth of Vietnamese shrimp in the U.S. market is difficult to understand. On Monday (June 16, 2014), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) added Ngoc Tri Seafood Joint Stock Company to Import Alert 16-124 (“Detention Without Physical Examination Of Aquaculture Seafood Products Due To Unapproved Drugs”) for chloramphenicol detected in its shrimp shipments. Ngoc Tri was the second Vietnamese shrimp exporter added to Import Alert 16-124 this year for chloramphenicol contamination of shrimp – in March, Quoc Viet Seaproducts Processing Trading & Imp-Exp Co., Ltd. was placed on the Alert. Another Vietnamese exporter, Hoang Phong Seafood Factory, was added to Import Alert 16-124 for enrofloxacin contamination in its shrimp shipments on April 9, 2014. That same day another Vietnamese exporter, Utxi Aquatic Products Processing Corporation, was also added to the Alert. Notably, the Utxi Aquatic Products Proceesing Group – Vietnam is listed as a “4 Star Production Group” on the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices website.
The FDA announced that five shipments of shrimp from Hoang Phong were refused in May for veterinary drug residues as were three shrimp shipments from Quoc Viet. Another four shrimp shipments from Quoc Viet were refused by the FDA in April for veterinary drug residues, as was a shrimp shipment from yet another Vietnamese shrimp exporter, Nhatrang Seaproduct Company. Nhatrang Seaproducts Co. is listed as a “3 Star Production Group” on the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices website.
All other major seafood markets report stunning consistency in the detection of banned antibiotics in their imports of Vietnamese shrimp:
- The European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (“RASFF”) includes fourteen notifications already this year for various findings of antibiotic contamination in Vietnamese shrimp, including doxycycline, oxytetracycline, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, and sulfadiazine.
- On June 16, 2014, RASFF distributed “Information for Attention” from Belgium regarding detection of doxycycline in vannamei imports from Vietnam and notification of a “border rejection” by Denmark of vannamei imports from Vietnam for the presence of oxytetracycline.
- RASFF also distributed “Information for Attention” from Belgium regarding the detection of doxycycline in other shrimp imports from Vietnam a few days earlier, on June 13, 2014, along with a notification of a “border rejection” of Vietnamese shrimp imports for doxycycline on June 10, 2014.
- On May 27, 2014, RASFF distributed notice of another border rejection of Vietnamese shrimp by Denmark, this time for the presence of both ciprofloxacin and oxytetracycline. Five days earlier, on May 22, 2014, RASFF also sent out notice of yet another border rejection of Vietnamese shrimp by Denmark for oxytetracycline. On May 15, 2014, RASFF noted another border rejection of Vietnamese shrimp by Denmark for tetracycline. On February 24, 2014, RASFF issued “Information for Attention” regarding Denmark’s detection of oxytetracycline in another shipment of Vietnamese shrimp.
- On April 29 and 30, 2014, RASFF distributed “Information for Attention” regarding Germany’s detection of oxytetracycline in imports of shrimp from Vietnam. On April 16, 2014, RASFF distributed “Information for Attention” from Germany regarding the detection of oxytetracycline in “giant shrimps” from Vietnam. Two days earlier, RASFF had distributed “Information for Attention” from Germany regarding the detection of oxytetracycline in other imports of shrimp from Vietnam. And on March 26, 2014, RASFF issued notice of a “border rejection” of cooked shrimp from Vietnam by Germany for oxytetracycline.
- On March 21, 2014, RASFF distributed “Information for Attention” regarding Ireland’s detection of oxytetracycline in shrimp from Vietnam.
- And on January 6, 2014, RASFF distributed “Information for Attention” regarding the detection of sulfadiazine in shrimp imports from Vietnam by Great Britain.
- So far this month, Japan’s Imported Foods Inspection Services has reported the rejection of a shipment of shrimp from the Vietnamese exporter Coastal Fisheries Development Corporation for the presence of oxytetracycline. Two more shrimp shipments from Coastal Fisheries Development Corporation were rejected in March for oxytetracycline.
- In January and April, shrimp shipments from Minh Phu Seafood Corp. were refused for nitrofurans, while in March another shrimp shipment from that company was refused for oxytetracycline. The Minh Phu Seafood Group – Vietnam (National Fish and Seafood Cooperative Venture) is, like Utxi Aquatic Products, listed as a “4 Star Production Group” on the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices website.
- My Son Seafood Factory No. 421 had a shrimp shipment refused for oxytetracycline in March as well.
- Thong Thuan Cam Ranh Seafood Joint Stock Company also had a shrimp shipment rejected for oxytetracycline in March.
- Seafood Joint Stock Company No. 1 had a shipment of breaded shrimp rejected for chloramphenicol in March.
- A shrimp shipment from Fimex VN was refused for oxytetracycline in April.
- Quoc Viet Seaproducts Processing Trading and Import-Export Co., Ltd. had a shrimp shipment refused for the presence of enrofloxacin in January.
- In February, a shrimp shipment from Hai Viet Co., Ltd. (HAVICO BCC Plant) was refused for oxytetracycline.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (“CFIA”) added Bac Lieu Fisheries Joint Stock Company to its Mandatory Inspection List (“MIL”) in February for both nitrofurans and fluoroquinolones and Grobest & I-Mei Industrial Vn. Co., Ltd. – Bac Lieu Branch was added for fluoroquinolones the same month.
- In April, Viet I-Mei Frozen Foods Co. Ltd. was also added to the MIL by the CFIA for fluoroquinolones.
- More recently, the CFIA added Nam Hai Company Limited to the MIL in June for nitrofurans.
- The CFIA added both Phu Tan Seafood Export Processing Factory – PHUTANEXCO and Nam Long Seafood Export Processing Factory – Dragon Viet Nam to the MIL in May for fluoroquinolones.
- In April, Australia’s Department of Agriculture reported that three different shipments of shrimp from Quocviet Seaproducts Processing Trading Co. Ltd. were found to be contaminated with enrofloxacin, with one of those three shipments also testing positive for ciprofloxacin.
- The month prior, another four shrimp shipments from Quocviet Seaproducts Processing Trading Co. Ltd. were reported to have been contaminated with enrofloxacin with one of those four shipments also testing positive for ciprofloxacin.
- And in January and February, a shrimp shipment from Quocviet Seaproducts Processing Trading Co. Ltd. each month was found to have been contaminated with enrofloxacin.
The continued use of banned antibiotics in Vietnamese shrimp aquaculture is not a surprise to those in Vietnam. An article distributed this week by a seafood industry news service reported that the Vietnamese Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers “has called on farmers not to use banned antibiotics in shrimp cultivation” and that experts had warned that if “local farmers continue to use such harmful antibiotics in shrimp cultivation, Vietnam may face” export bans in Japan and the European Union.
The presence of banned antibiotics in Vietnamese shrimp should not be a surprise to anyone else. Yet, despite the fact that this year shrimp imports from Quoc Viet have been explicitly identified as being contaminated with antibiotics in the United States, Japan, and Australia, substantial quantities of shrimp from this exporter continue to enter the U.S. market. Moreover, the Quoc Viet Seaproducts Processing Trading and Import Export Group – Vietnam is currently listed as a “2 Star Production Group” on the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices website.
Why are importers and shrimp purchasers seemingly willing to cavalierly expose shrimp consumers to banned substances? Even in terms of naked self-interest, why are importers and shrimp purchasers willing to endanger the perception of shrimp in the U.S. market? The continuing and undeniably growing problems associated with the Vietnamese shrimp industry are not a secret. The instances of refusals or regulatory actions taken in response to antibiotic contamination from just this year are all public information. Most importantly, there is simply no other shrimp supplier in the world that comes close to having the same terrible results as the Vietnamese industry. None.
I am certain of one thing. If the shortcuts taken in Vietnamese aquaculture are tolerated by consumers and shrimp distributors in the United States, Vietnam won’t be the only shrimp supplier with prevalent use of antibiotics for long. And then we are really in trouble.