FDA: Seafood import alerts for China still active

Published on
November 20, 2014

Reports this week that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may terminate existing import alerts on Chinese farmed seafood turned out to be incorrect.

“The FDA has not announced any changes to our inspection procedures or import alerts,” Douglas Karas, a spokesperson for the agency, told SeafoodSource. At the same time, some Chinese exporters have been removed from the import alert and the FDA is working more cooperatively with Chinese authorities on farmed seafood exports.

This August, the FDA re-issued an import alert on farmed catfish, basa, shrimp, dace, and eel from China after finding shipments containing illegal veterinary drugs. Drug residue issues have been a problem in some Chinese farmed seafood since 2001, when the FDA issued an import alert to detain eel from China because of the potential for the presence of malachite green. From 2006 through 2007, the agency tested 89 samples of catfish, basa, shrimp, dace and eel from China, and found that 25 percent were found to contain drug residues, which prompted the issuance of a new import alert.

“Although the use of some animal drugs (nitrofurans and malachite green) in aquaculture has been prohibited by Chinese authorities since 2002, FDA continues to find residues of these and other animal drugs in shipments of aquaculture seafood products from China,” the August import alert stated.

However, several Chinese exporters have since met the FDA’s criteria to have their farmed seafood shipments taken off the physical examination requirements of the 2007 import alert. The excluded exporters include Asian Seafoods (Zhanjiang Co. Ltd.), Allied Pacific Food (Dalian) Co. Ltd., Fuijan Provincial Mei Hua Aquatic Processing Factory, Qianjiang Baolong Aquatic Products & Foodstuffs Co. and several others.

“Typically, the way a company gets off of the import alert, is by having a series of shipments (five) that does not have drug residues … and also a third party (like AQSIQ as an example) has inspected and the processing meets Chinese regulations and FDA Seafood HACCP regulations,” Karas said. “As the Chinese system works, then it is likely that fewer companies would have violations in their shipments and those companies could then be removed from the Import Alert, if they met the requirements.”

Speaking at the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo in Shanghai on 5 November, Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, confirmed the value of third-party audits for Chinese seafood exporters. “We believe we have common purpose with the food industry to ensure the rigor and objectivity of private audits, as well as to improve efficiency by reducing redundant or ineffective audits.”

Taylor also revealed that agency’s focus in China has shifted to “achieving and verifying that private food-safety management systems are working effectively to prevent problems. This is a shift from our historic focus on enforcement of adulteration standards. We will continue to act swiftly and forcefully when violations are putting consumers at risk, but we plan to focus our inspection teams on compliance and food safety outcomes as the best way to protect consumers and strengthen consumer confidence.”

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