Since its founding nearly 2 decades again, the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s (SSA) top priority has been fighting at the federal level against all forms of illegal shrimp imports. This includes especially shrimp imports contaminated with dangerous antibiotics that pose a dual threat to human health.

On the one hand, some antibiotics used on foreign shrimp farms can cause deadly forms of cancer and aplastic anemia. On the other hand, the consumption of shrimp imports contaminated with these powerful drugs contributes to the emergence of antibiotic resistant superbugs for which there may be no medical treatments available.  The growth of antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics is becoming one of the greatest challenges to human health on the planet.

Because importing antibiotic contaminated shrimp is illegal, SSA has focused on increasing enforcement by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which is responsible for protecting U.S. consumer health by testing shrimp imports for a range of threats including antibiotics. As it did last year, SSA is again working with Louisiana Senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy to significantly increase funding for FDA inspections of shrimp imports and the facilities that produce them overseas. SSA greatly appreciates the support of the entire Louisiana Congressional Delegation for this funding.

Still, even with increased funding, the FDA has historically only sampled less than 0.1% of seafood imports for antibiotics. This incredibly low level of oversight is a particular problem with India which has surged in recent years to become the number one supplier of shrimp imports to the U.S. market. Over the last few years, the FDA has found greater incidents of antibiotic contamination in shrimp imports from India as compared to shrimp imported from all other nations combined.

SSA also worked to establish country-of-origin labeling laws for seafood at the Federal level which also require labels to advise consumers whether the product was farm-raised or was caught in the wild. This enables consumers make an informed choice of whether he or she wants to take a chance in buying imported farm raised shrimp.

However, due to opposition from the powerful restaurant industry at the national level, these Federal labeling requirements have a number of exemptions, and do not apply in any way to restaurants. Instead, consumers can only find such federally-required labeling information for uncooked fresh and frozen seafood in retail establishments, such as grocery stores.

According to SSA Executive Director John Williams; “While not by any means is every imported shrimp served in a restaurant contaminated with dangerous antibiotics, there is currently no way for a consumer to know. We are forced to essentially play Russian roulette. That is why we applaud and pledge our support for Louisiana Rep. Jerry Gisclair and his legislation to empower consumers to make an informed choice. All Americans have the right to do whatever we can to protect our health.  Restaurants should be part of that solution.”