Government Spending Bill Includes New Funds for FDA Seafood Inspections

Last night Congress passed a funding bill that provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with significant additional resources to address contaminated seafood products that are introduced to the U.S. market.

The new FDA funding, championed by Senator Kennedy (LA) and co-sponsored by Senator Cassidy (LA), increases by twenty-six percent the resources the FDA must spend to inspect imported seafood at the border and in overseas seafood facilities. The additional $3.1 million in funds increases the FDA’s spending on these activities to $15 million in FY2019.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has repeatedly identified shortcomings in the FDA’s oversight of imported seafood. The GAO reports that in 2015 the FDA tested only 0.1% of seafood entry lines for unsafe residues of banned antibiotics.

Nearly 10% of the seafood tested by FDA contained banned antibiotics.

“The FDA must increase inspections of imported seafood to take away incentives to use banned antibiotics in foreign aquaculture,” states John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “In the United States, 98.8% of imported seafood enters the country without examination. Other major markets are doing a better job of enforcing food safety laws, causing the United States to become a dumping ground for contaminated seafood.”

For example, the Indian shrimp farming industry is notorious for use of banned antibiotics in its aquaculture. Since 2016, over half of all shrimp imports refused by the FDA for either salmonella or banned antibiotics originated in India.

In 2017 and 2018, the European Union took significant actions to protect its consumers from contaminated Indian shrimp. India increased shipments to the United States during that time.

Today, India supplies more than one out of every three pounds of shrimp imported into the United States.

“Senator Kennedy and Cassidy have repeatedly insisted that domestic and foreign seafood producers be held to the same standards,” said Williams. “Their leadership in securing testing of imported seafood both protects U.S. seafood consumers and holds foreign shrimp producers accountable for engaging in unethical production practices. We are incredibly thankful to the Senators and their excellent staff for their leadership on this critical issue.”

See the latest FDA refusals of shrimp:

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