A Nod to Farmed Shrimp
At the 2002 West Coast Seafood Show in Los Angeles, I interviewed George Chamberlain, president of the Global Aquaculture Alliance, about the Aquaculture Certification Council, a voluntary, third-party farmed shrimp certification program he spearheaded. At the time, the program was still in its infancy. "It's gradually gaining support," he told me, "and I think it's very important for the industry to adopt."
Six years later, one-quarter of global shrimp production, including 40 percent of Thai shrimp exports and one-third of U.S.-consumed shrimp, is certified by the ACC, which certifies shrimp hatcheries, farms and processing plants against the GAA's Best Aquaculture Practices.
Now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is using the shrimp-farming industry as a test case--the goal is to help the agency draft guidance for third-party certification programs to ensure certified food imports meet FDA requirements. Yesterday, the agency announced it is seeking third-party certification organizations to participate in a pilot program for farmed shrimp.
It's a nod to the shrimp-farming industry and the progress it has made over the past several years. It's also recognition of public-private collaboration and its budding role in the effort to improve the safety of the U.S. food supply.
"It's encouraging. The administration acknowledges that third-party certification organizations have the ability to enhance the work the FDA is already doing," Wally Stevens, executive director of the GAA, told me yesterday. "It's nice to hear words like collaboration and partnership delivered in a sincere way--a demonstration of great leadership on the part of the administration."
The Working Group on Import Safety could have simply supported increasing food import inspections to appease the consumer-advocacy community.
But it didn't. The inter-agency group did its homework and determined that the attack-it-at-the-source mentality Chamberlain and Stevens advocate is the most efficient and effective way to prevent the use of illegal veterinary drugs and other food-safety concerns.
Using farmed shrimp to gauge the effectiveness of third-party certification organizations is a gigantic step in the right direction for the FDA, and the U.S. food supply will be safer because of it.