Through the first third of this year, shrimp imports from Vietnam have more than doubled in volume from the first four months in 2013.  Currently, Vietnam is the fourth largest shrimp supplier to the U.S. market – more shrimp from Vietnam has been imported into the United States this year than from Thailand.

The incredible growth of Vietnamese shrimp in the U.S. market is difficult to understand.  On Monday (June 16, 2014), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) added Ngoc Tri Seafood Joint Stock Company to Import Alert 16-124 (“Detention Without Physical Examination Of Aquaculture Seafood Products Due To Unapproved Drugs”) for chloramphenicol detected in its shrimp shipments.  Ngoc Tri was the second Vietnamese shrimp exporter added to Import Alert 16-124 this year for chloramphenicol contamination of shrimp – in March, Quoc Viet Seaproducts Processing Trading & Imp-Exp Co., Ltd. was placed on the Alert.  Another Vietnamese exporter, Hoang Phong Seafood Factory, was added to Import Alert 16-124 for enrofloxacin contamination in its shrimp shipments on April 9, 2014.  That same day another Vietnamese exporter, Utxi Aquatic Products Processing Corporation, was also added to the Alert.  Notably, the Utxi Aquatic Products Proceesing Group – Vietnam is listed as a “4 Star Production Group” on the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices website.

The FDA announced that five shipments of shrimp from Hoang Phong were refused in May for veterinary drug residues as were three shrimp shipments from Quoc Viet.  Another four shrimp shipments from Quoc Viet were refused by the FDA in April for veterinary drug residues, as was a shrimp shipment from yet another Vietnamese shrimp exporter, Nhatrang Seaproduct Company.  Nhatrang Seaproducts Co. is listed as a “3 Star Production Group” on the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices website.

All other major seafood markets report stunning consistency in the detection of banned antibiotics in their imports of Vietnamese shrimp:

European Union.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada. 

 

 

 

Australia. 

 

 

The continued use of banned antibiotics in Vietnamese shrimp aquaculture is not a surprise to those in Vietnam.  An article distributed this week by a seafood industry news service reported that the Vietnamese Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers “has called on farmers not to use banned antibiotics in shrimp cultivation” and that experts had warned that if “local farmers continue to use such harmful antibiotics in shrimp cultivation, Vietnam may face” export bans in Japan and the European Union.

The presence of banned antibiotics in Vietnamese shrimp should not be a surprise to anyone else.  Yet, despite the fact that this year shrimp imports from Quoc Viet have been explicitly identified as being contaminated with antibiotics in the United States, Japan, and Australia, substantial quantities of shrimp from this exporter continue to enter the U.S. market.  Moreover, the Quoc Viet Seaproducts Processing Trading and Import Export Group – Vietnam is currently listed as a “2 Star Production Group” on the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices website.

Why?

Why are importers and shrimp purchasers seemingly willing to cavalierly expose shrimp consumers to banned substances?  Even in terms of naked self-interest, why are importers and shrimp purchasers willing to endanger the perception of shrimp in the U.S. market?  The continuing and undeniably growing problems associated with the Vietnamese shrimp industry are not a secret.  The instances of refusals or regulatory actions taken in response to antibiotic contamination from just this year are all public information.  Most importantly, there is simply no other shrimp supplier in the world that comes close to having the same terrible results as the Vietnamese industry.  None.

I am certain of one thing.  If the shortcuts taken in Vietnamese aquaculture are tolerated by consumers and shrimp distributors in the United States, Vietnam won’t be the only shrimp supplier with prevalent use of antibiotics for long.  And then we are really in trouble.