Pew calls for increased salmon inspections

The Pew Environment Group on Thursday urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand testing of farmed salmon imports from not only Chile but also Canada, Norway, Scotland and Ireland due to "widespread use" of unapproved or banned substances.

In a letter to acting FDA commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the Washington, D.C., group warned of potential environmental threats and human health risks associated with chemicals it says salmon farmers commonly use.

Among the antibiotics and pesticides in question is emamectin benzoate, a sea lice pesticide known as Slice. Pew says a provision allowing Maine salmon farmers to use Slice under an Investigational New Animal Drug permit from the FDA needs further review. Pew says the chemical is "very toxic to aquatic organisms" and "may cause long-term adverse effects in the environment."

"It's appropriate that the FDA limits an exporting country such as Chile to those drugs 'approved' by the FDA/Center for Veterinary Medicine, but exempting certain U.S. producers, such as those in Maine, creates a double standard," said Andrea Kavanagh, who directs Pew's marine aquaculture campaign. "The FDA's standards should be universal and enforced accordingly."

Pew claims pesticide and antibiotic residues in farmed salmon could cause antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in humans.

While Pew has mainly focused on salmon production in Chile, the group says it now has information showing that drugs unapproved by the United States are also being used on salmon farms in Canada, Norway and Scotland.

Pew wants additional information on the FDA's stance on the use of "unapproved" drugs in aquaculture and whether the agency will require all companies exporting salmon to the United States to adhere to the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine's list of approved aquaculture drugs.

"The agency has made progress in relation to some imported farmed fish," said Kavanagh, referring to the FDA's 2007 import alert against five species of farmed seafood from China due to traces of illegal substances. "It is time for the FDA to tackle the outstanding environmental and food safety problems associated with farmed salmon, not just in Chile but also in Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and even right here at home."


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