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More Funding Pushed for FDA Seafood Oversight

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) Tuesday renewed her pledge to fight for more food safety funding after a new report found serious gaps in imported seafood oversight.

Monday, the Government Accountability Office released a 50-page report that found the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s imported seafood oversight program is “limited” and needs to be strengthened. The report zeroes in on the use of drugs in overseas aquaculture and lack of testing for both approved and unapproved substances in seafood shipped to the U.S.

Over 80 percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported and about half of the imports are farm-raised. As GAO noted in the report, fish grown in confined aquaculture can have high rates of infection and farmers may need to use drugs, like antibiotics and antifungal agents, which can present a drug residue risk for consumers.

China produces almost a quarter of all U.S. seafood imports, followed by Thailand, 16 percent, and Canada, 13 percent. Indonesia, Vietnam, and Ecuador are each responsible for around 5 percent of U.S. imports.

DeLauro, ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees FDA’s budget, blasted the current imported seafood testing program.

“Only one in every ten imported fish, shellfish, shrimp, or other seafood is tested for drug residues when it enters our country,” said DeLauro in a statement. “The GAO findings further highlight the need to modernize the FDA’s approach to ensuring the safety of imported seafood in order to keep up with the ever-increasing quantities of seafood we import from more than 100 countries. Currently, our testing processes do not adequately test imported seafood for potential chemicals not approved for use in the United States. The Food Safety Modernization Act included several provisions to help meet that need, but we must do more.”

“American consumers deserve better,” she added, calling on the FDA to inspect and analyze a higher percentage of seafood for drug residues that “present a risk to the health of American consumers.”

DeLauro also called on the Administration to pay attention to safety issues when moving forward with Free Trade Agreements.

“We cannot allow trade to trump food safety,” said DeLauro. “In particular, food safety must be a top priority in the ongoing negotiations over a Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA that involves Vietnam, a country we import a large amount of seafood from.”

DeLauro added that although the 2012 budget discussion would be “an uphill battle” it is “one that must be fought.” 

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