A new Consumer Reports (CR) study released Friday found that 60 percent of 342 samples of frozen shrimp it tested contained Salmonella, Vibrio, Listeria, or E. coli, and 2 percent tested positive for the superbug MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). For its new report, “How Safe is Your Shrimp?,” CR researchers bought 284 raw and 58 cooked shrimp samples for testing last March in 27 cities across the country from retailers such as Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons, Costco, Fry’s Marketplace, Hy-Vee and Sprouts Farmers Market. CR didn’t test fresh, never-frozen shrimp since U.S. consumers don’t buy much of that.
Specifically, the report recommends looking for farmed shrimp labeled Naturland, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, or Whole Foods Market Responsibly Farmed. It notes that there is another common certification, Best Aquaculture Practices, but testing for the study found antibiotics on four samples carrying that label. Rangan noted that labeling of shrimp or other seafood as “natural” or “organic” should not be relied upon since there are no standards or regulations behind the terms and consequently they really don’t mean anything. For safer handling of raw shrimp at home, she recommends that consumers keep the shrimp clean and cool (below 40 degrees F) and avoid cross-contamination. “It can take a while to prepare shrimp, so keep it on ice. And when you’re deveining, make sure you keep it clean and cold, just as if you were preparing raw chicken or raw beef,” Rangan advised. CR recommends buying wild-caught shrimp that has been sustainably fished whenever possible because, even though it may be more expensive, it is likely to have less bacteria, fewer residues, and less overall negative impact on the environment. The report notes that “of all the shrimp tested, wild shrimp were among the least likely to harbor any kind of bacteria or contain chemicals.” This view was echoed by the American Shrimp Processor’s Association (ASPA) of Biloxi, MS, which released a statement Friday supporting the findings in the CR report. “Reports like this validate our long-standing position that by asking for wild-caught shrimp and reading labels carefully, consumers and buyers can make sure they are getting quality shrimp that are free from antibiotics and disease,” said Jonathan McLendon, ASPA vice president and president of Wild American Shrimp Inc. However, the National Fisheries Institute of McLean, VA, a trade association representing seafood suppliers and producers, indicated that sections of the report raised questions about whether CR was “simply looking for problems they couldn’t substantiate but reported on them anyway.” “The fact is shrimp, imported, domestic, farmed or wild, is a healthy part of a balanced diet despite the hand wringing and hyperbole we see in this report,” NFI said. Some information about shrimp included the CR report:
- Americans eat, on average, nearly 4 pounds of shrimp per person each year, and the amount is increasing.
- Nearly 94 percent of the U.S. shrimp supply is imported.
- FDA examined 3.7 percent of foreign shrimp shipments in 2014 and tested 0.7 percent.
- Raw, farmed shrimp from Bangladesh and India were the most likely to carry bacteria, with 83 and 74 percent tainted, respectively.
- Raw, wild-caught shrimp from Argentina and the U.S. were the least likely to be tainted, at 33 and 20 percent, respectively.
The “How Safe is Your Shrimp?” study will be published in the June 2015 issue of CR.