Contaminated Imported Seafood Widespread in the U.S.


Nearly 8 percent of the shrimp consumed in America each year comes from Vietnam—more than 100 million pounds annually. And a new report says its contaminated with bacteria from pig feces.

While companies exporting seafood to the U.S. say they’re trying to improve quality standards for seafood, Nguyen Dieu Tu and William Bi, writing for Bloomberg Markets magazine, suggest that the use of ice made from local tap water is a bacterial risk including contamination from pig feces run-off from nearby farms. In fact, according to the article, many fish farms have completely stopped using conventional food and are strictly feeding the fish animal feces, despite expert recommendations to stop because of the risk of disease.

Likewise, throughout China, tilapia fish farms are fed feces contaminated by pigs and geese—a practice that surely contributes to the alarming number of food borne bacteria related illnesses reported in the country.  And it’s not a small number of imports from China, either. Twenty-seven percent of seafood sold in the U.S. now originates in China, a country with significantly different food standards and certifications than the U.S. Despite the differences, U.S. regulators—mainly the understaffed FDA—inspect less than 3 percent of all imported food.

Despite the low number of inspections, American regulators have refused more than 1,300 loads of Vietnamese seafood since 2007 and more than 800 from China, with nearly 200 of those containing tilapia, according to the article. However, many inspectors now certifying U.S. food as safe for consumption, are being outsourced by the FDA because the agency is understaffed and underfunded. And Bloomberg Markets also reported in another recent article that many of the inspectors are tied to the corporations they’re investigating.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.