For Fourth Straight Month, FDA Sets Record Low for Refusals of Imported Seafood

This morning, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published data reporting that there were 26 total seafood entry line refusals in August (through at least August 25th). None of these refusals were for entry lines of shrimp for reasons related to banned antibiotics.  However, two of the twenty-six entry lines (7.7%) were for shrimp from India refused for the presence of salmonella and for being insanitary.

The small number of total seafood entry lines refused in August (26) continues, for the fourth straight month, an unprecedented low in the agency’s history of oversight of imported seafood. Over the previous eighteen years (2002-2019), the FDA has refused an average of roughly 174 seafood entry in the month of August. The 26 seafood entry line refusals reported last month represents a drop of 85 percent below this historic average. The chart below sets out the total number of seafood entry lines refused by the FDA in the month of August for each of the last nineteen years.

Over the last fourth months, the decline in FDA refusals of seafood entry lines has been stunning. Between 2002 and 2019, the FDA averaged 660 entry line refusals in the four-month period running from May to August. This year the FDA has refused just 129 seafood entry lines over the past four months; an amount representing a staggering 80 percent decline from the prior 18-year historical average.

As the table above shows, this is the second straight year in which the FDA has reported a massive, unprecedented decline in the number of seafood entry line refusals made between May and August. Last year, over that same four-month period, the FDA established a record low by refusing just 325 seafood entry lines, an amount that was 52 percent below the prior 17-year historical average of 680 seafood entry line refusals.
The massive decline in the FDA’s refusals of seafood entry lines has corresponded to incredibly high levels of seafood imports. Although the total value of seafood imported under Chapter 3 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, as well as the four-digit codes 1603, 1604, and 1605 has declined each of the last two years, they have remained at levels of around $10 billion. The $9.9 billion in total seafood imported this year represents a 33 percent increase over the prior 18-year historic average of $7.5 billion in seafood import value over the first six months of each year.
In the context of high levels of seafood imports, the FDA’s reporting of massive declines in the number of seafood entry lines refused at the border appears to reflect policy choices severely weakening the agency’s oversight of imported seafood.

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