Pew Claims Chilean Salmon Producers Use Banned Chemicals

The Pew Environment Group announced yesterday that it has acquired U.S. Food and Drug Administration documents that show three of the largest Chilean salmon producers use a number of chemicals banned by the U.S. government.

The chemicals include the antibiotics flumequine and oxolinic acid and the pesticide emamectin benzoate, a sea lice deterrent commonly known as SLICE — a chemical that the FDA has previously allowed in limited amounts. Pew says the documents show that the farmed salmon containing residues of unapproved chemicals were destined for the U.S. market.

Pew says the documents show that Norway-based Marine Harvest and AquaChile, the two largest farmed salmon producers in Chile, are among the offenders. In the documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the FDA says that “if the drug is not listed in the approved drugs list … [Chilean companies] are not allowed to use the drug to treat salmon destined to be distributed in the United States, not even if they meet withdrawal periods and no tissue residue can be detected.”

“We applaud the FDA for telling these companies that they can no longer use these chemicals in fish that are to be exported to the U.S.,” said Andrea Kavanagh, manager of the Salmon Aquaculture Reform Campaign at the Pew Environment Group. “We now hope that the FDA will enforce this directive and protect American consumers and the environment.”

Pew is urging the FDA to conduct more tests on farmed salmon imports and to impose an import alert on Chilean salmon, similar to the agency’s action against five species of farmed seafood from China in 2007.

“Standards and enforcement should be the same for Chile as they are for China,” said Kavanagh. “If the Chilean companies do not comply with instructions to stop using these chemicals then the FDA should consider taking similar action as it did with China.”

A New York Times report on Wednesday said that Chile’s government and industry officials have not grasped the need for the reforms to protect consumers, the environment and “one of Chile’s most important industries from itself.”

The Times reported that Donald Kraemer, the FDA’s deputy advisor in the office for food safety, verified the documents obtained by Pew, which the group shared with the Times. Kraemer told the newspaper that an import alert was indeed issued last year against three companies — Cultivadores de Salmones Linao Ltda. (owned by Marine Harvest), Empresas Aquachile and Alimentos Cuisine Solutions. The alert has since been lifted.

Salmon of the Americas, an association representing farmed salmon producers in Chile, Canada and the United States, says the article is the latest in a series of misleading New York Times reports about the industry’s food safety track record.

“The article’s statement that the industry struggles to comply with regulations set by other countries is especially misleading, considering the successful exportation of farmed salmon over the last 25 years into countries with strenuous regulations and safety standards,” said SOTA. 


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