Southern Shrimp Alliance Highlights Concerns Regarding the Role of Antibiotic Use in Shrimp Aquaculture in the Development and Spread of Antimicrobial Resistance

The Fifth Session of the Ad Hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance (TFAMR) of the Codex Alimentarius Commission will take place in Jeju, Korea from November 27, 2017 until December 1, 2017.  At this session, international delegates will discuss two documents that Codex will consider adopting to address concerns regarding the development and spread of antimicrobial resistant pathogens through food production and trade – the Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance and Draft Guidelines on Integrated Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance.
In response to a request for comments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Southern Shrimp Alliance submitted a letter outlining the U.S. shrimp industry’s concerns with the unnecessary and undisciplined use of antibiotics in shrimp aquaculture outside of the United States.  The Southern Shrimp Alliance observed that medicated feed products containing colistin, a last-resort antibiotic with respect to a number of pathogens that effect humans, continue to be marketed to aquaculture farmers in India and Vietnam.  Worse, feed including colistin has been marketed in India not only for therapeutic purposes but as a growth promoter in poultry and aquaculture.
The letter additionally highlighted a survey conducted by the Vietnamese government in 2015 and 2016 that found that 67.9 percent of households farming shrimp in the provinces of Soc Trang and Bac Lieu used at least one antibiotic in their operations.  Many of these households were creating medicated feed on their own without any guidance from veterinarians.  In a presentation at an antimicrobial resistant workshop of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in April of this year, two Vietnamese government officials explained that antibiotic use was so widespread that farmers “just bought some [kilograms] of Oxytetracycline and kept them for daily use.”  An academic paper published in 2015 reported that shrimp farmers in Vietnam stored their antibiotics in rudimentary conditions, and were “often placed in a plastic bag and hung on the wall or in a corner of the family home.”  That paper also explained that “[m]ost farms administer the antibiotics by mixing it into the feed, either by hand or with a shovel, despite reduced food intake by ill fish or shrimp.”  An academic paper published in 2017 reported that Vietnamese shrimp and fish farmers purchased antibiotics at pharmacies because “these human drugs had a lower price and, because sold for human use, were more effective compared with antimicrobials sold in the shops catering [to] aquaculture farmers.”  The paper explained that farmers purchase pills, crushed them with bare hands, and then “shrimp farmers typically top-coat the feed pellets with a mix of antimicrobial powder dissolved in fresh water.”
The letter summarized the continued findings of antibiotic residues in farmed shrimp exported from India and Vietnam to the United States and other markets.  In the sixteen-year period running from fiscal years (FY) 2001 to 2016, the FDA has tested a total of 1,841 samples of Vietnamese shrimp and found Class 3 chemotherapeutics in 158 of those samples – a hit rate of 8.6 percent.  Over that same time period, the FDA has tested a total of 1,970 samples of Indian shrimp and found Class 3 chemotherapeutics in 139 of those samples – a hit rate of 7.1 percent.
The Southern Shrimp Alliance’s letter expressed support for the principles expressed in the Codex documents that aspired to greatly reduce the use of antimicrobials in food production.  However, the organization noted its objection to proposed language that would eliminate biocides from the scope of the guidelines on surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and asked the United States to seek the removal of a clause that stated that “[d]ata generated from national monitoring and surveillance programs of AMR in imported foods should not be used to inappropriately generate barriers to trade.”  The Southern Shrimp Alliance was therefore disappointed to learn that the draft position of the U.S. delegation, made public on Tuesday, seeks to omit not only biocides from the scope of the surveillance guidelines, but also “viricides, de-wormers, [and] coccidiostats (including ionophores).”  Of greater concern, the draft position of the U.S. delegation intends to broaden the cautionary note regarding the use of data obtained from surveillance programs in making trade determinations by amending the currently proposed language to apply to all such data rather than just information related to imports:  “Data generated from national monitoring and surveillance programs of AMR should not be used inappropriately by trading partners to generate barriers to trade.”
“We all need to take the threat of antibiotic-resistant strains of disease very seriously,” said John Williams, the Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance.  “There is no justification for the continued presence of antibiotics in shrimp aquaculture.  We can put a stop to this significant contributor to our overall risk by preventing antibiotic-contaminated shrimp from reaching U.S. consumers.  Remove the market for the shrimp and the practice ends.”
Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s November 3rd Letter here:
Review the proposed draft revision of the Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance here:
Review the proposed Draft Guidelines on Integrated Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance here:
Review the draft U.S. positions discussed at the public meeting regarding the 5th Session of Codex’s TAFMR here:

See more about the 5th Session of Codex’s TFAMR here:

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