Georgia Finds Banned Antibiotic in Chinese Catfish Fillets

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
May 6, 2008

The Georgia Department of Agriculture has detected the banned antibiotic enrofloxacin in Chinese catfish fillets sold at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hazelhurst, Ga.

The Georgia Agriculture Department collected a sample of the product during a routine inspection on Feb. 27 and found traces of enrofloxacin. The agency immediately placed the lot of Chinese catfish fillets on a stop sale.

On April 24, the department notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Atlanta district office that the product contained 2.9 parts per billion of enrofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic prohibited for use in food animals by the FDA. The Georgia Agriculture Department has a zero tolerance policy for fluoroquinolones.

The Chinese catfish fillets were distributed by American Pride Seafoods of Greensboro, Ala., one of the nation's largest catfish processors. They were imported into the United States before the FDA late last June placed an import alert on five farmed seafood species from China - catfish, basa, shrimp, eel and dace - due to the elevated presence of illegal antibiotics and fungicides, including fluoroquinolones.

Last spring, both the Alabama and Mississippi agriculture departments temporarily halted Chinese catfish sales after finding traces of fluoroquinolones in samples of the fish.

But Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin says itâ??s "irresponsible" to halt sales of all Chinese catfish after just one product was found to contain a banned antibiotic.

However, it's the state's responsibility to protect its consumers, and it will continue to test both imported and domestic seafood, as well as other foods, for illegal substances, says Irvin. The Georgia Agriculture Department, which gathers 40,000 to 50,000 food samples annually, will increase its testing beginning July 1, thanks to additional funding from the Georgia Legislature, he adds.

"We're capable of doing only what we have the resources to do," says Irvin, who was elected to his 10th four-year term in November 2006.

The Georgia Agriculture Department contacted Wal-Mart's corporate office in Bentonville, Ark., but not American Pride, according to the agency's spokesperson. American Pride was not immediately available for comment.

The traces of fluoroquinolones found in food animals pose no immediate human health danger. Harmful bacteria can develop a resistance to fluoroquinolones, and that bacteria can then pose a greater health threat to humans.

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