'Today' segment blasts imported seafood


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
November 16, 2010

The National Fisheries Institute on Tuesday warned its members via e-mail that “Today,” a popular American news and talk TV show, is set to air a “sensational” segment on imported seafood.

The McLean, Va.-based organization expected the one-sided segment, which was due to air on Wednesday morning, to “hammer” imported seafood and question the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s competence.

In a “hostile” 40-minute interview, NFI President John Connelly defended imported seafood’s food-safety record and supported the FDA, which is responsible for regulating the U.S. food supply and protecting the public. NFI included a transcript of the interview in the e-mail to its members.

In the interview, Connelly was asked basically the same question 14 times, as the reporter was apparently looking for “some kind of confession.”

“Today reporter” Jeff Rossen questioned Connelly about the safety of imported seafood, claiming both federal and state agencies are finding “toxic chemicals” in imported seafood. 

Connelly said repeatedly that any use of unauthorized antibiotics and other substances is inappropriate, and the FDA takes a risk-based approach to food safety by targeting “problem” companies overseas. “When they do find those problems and they take action, that’s the system working,” he said, also pointing to the HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point) program is designed to prevent food-safety problems at the point of production.

Connelly added that NFI is pushing Congress to “fully fund” the FDA and backs the food-safety bill introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois (the Senate is expected to pass the bill within a week).

The reporter also repeatedly asked Connelly why only 2 percent of U.S. seafood imports is inspected at the port of entry.

“FDA uses a risk-based approach to target their inspections at companies that may have had a problem in the past, and that’s a good use of government resources,” said Connelly.

“Unfortunately, there are bad actors in any industry. And we encourage FDA to go after bad actors. We encourage the foreign government to go after bad actors, to stop them. We welcome that. It doesn’t help our industry at all, when there are bad actors that are allowed to continue,” he noted. “Unfortunately, there are bad actors in every industry, some new actors may pop up, some new companies may pop up, that feel they can take advantage.

“FDA has targeted some countries more aggressively,” he continued. “In the case of China, they require 100 percent of testing, on five key species, because China didn’t make the steps that FDA felt were needed to ensure the safety of the product.”

NFI included six talking points in its e-mail to help members answer questions they may receive from the media or consumers after watching the Today piece. In the talking points, NFI pointed out that of all the major food recalls in the past decade, none have involved seafood.

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