FDA to detain Malaysian shrimp imports after finding unsafe antibiotic residue

Published on
April 22, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has directed an import alert at Malaysian-farmed shrimp after discovering illegal and unsafe levels of antibiotics and food additives in 32 percent of the samples tested from the Southeast Asian country.

The FDA’s District Offices may detain shrimp and prawn imports from Malaysia without physical examination as a result of the alert. The issuance comes after residues of nitrofurans and chloramphenicol were found in 45 of the 128 samples taken by the agency between 1 October, 2014 and 30 September, 2015; imports containing residues of nitrofurans or chloramphenicol are considered adulterated and are thus not permitted by the FDA for sale or consumption within the United States. 

Although Malaysia has banned seafood farms from incorporating nitrofurans and chloramphenicol into their operations, the FDA continues to find residues of these drugs in shrimp and prawns from peninsular Malaysia exported to the United States, said the agency in its alert. As such, the FDA has requested that the Malaysian government conduct an investigation into the residue problem and ultimately develop a program of short-term and long-term actions to prevent the export of adulterated shrimp products.

An antibiotic typically reserved for treating drug-resistant strains of plague and typhoid fever, chloramphenicol has long been known cause of detainment for Malaysian shrimp imports, according to the American Shrimp Processors Association (ASPA).

“This is even more evidence that American restaurants, retailers and consumers should be paying attention to the labels on the shrimp they’re buying,” said ASPA Executive Director David Veal. “When buying American shrimp, consumers can always be confident that wild American shrimp products meet or exceed the highest standards, which is not the same case with imports.”

Shrimp is the most popular seafood consumed within the United States. The average American eating four pounds of the seafood annually, approximately 90 percent of which is imported, said ASPA. In 2015, Malaysia imported 17 million pounds of shrimp to the United States.

Malaysia’s states of Sabah and Sarawak are not subject to the import alert, said the FDA.

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