"With Imported Seafood Flooding US, Are Inspections Enough?"

"At the Seafood Expo North America earlier this year, visitors flocked to the free samples like  tropical fish in a tank, nibbling on shrimp and crab, smoked, roasted and baked salmon and piglet-sized loins of ahi tuna. But of the 1,100 businesses on display at the Boston show, the vast majority of fish hailed from China and Vietnam, Chile, India, Indonesia, Scotland, Portugal and many other nations.

Americans eat nearly 5 billion pounds of seafood a year, about 15.8 pounds of fish and shellfish per person – about half of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends — yet an estimated 90 percent of that comes from foreign waters. Last year, seafood imports hit nearly $19 billion, up from $10.5 billion in 2000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Fisheries Service. In comparison, Americans eat about $2 billion of fish harvested in the U.S., and send nearly $6 billion overseas.

“That’s not going to change,” said Peter Quinter, a Miami-based attorney for seafood importers. “We’re consuming more seafood than ever before, per person, and we don’t have the (domestic) supply yet.”

With all this foreign seafood ending up on American plates, the percentage that gets inspected by the Food and Drug Administration, one of the main bodies overseeing fish imports, is relatively low: between 1 and 2 percent. The top imported species of seafood – shrimp and prawns (counted as one category) and tuna – are also the ones with the most shipments refused by the United States, according to an analysis of FDA inspection data by the Investigative News Network."

Deborah Zabarenko reports for the Food & Environment Reporting Network July 8, 2014.
 

Thursday, July 10, 2014