PRZOOM - /newswire/ -
Tarpon Springs, FL, United States, 2007/10/16 - In response to more documentation that FDA is unable to protect American consumers from contaminated food imports, the U.S. shrimp industry calls on Congress to raise U.S. food safety enforcement to international standards.
More documentation of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) inability to protect American consumers from contaminated food imports was presented to Congress last Thursday, October 11, 2007. According to testimony from House Energy and Commerce Committee investigators, the FDA has not been able or willing to pursue the vigorous program of inspection and laboratory testing that is needed to assure the safety and security of the nation’s food supply.
In response, the Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA) called on Congress to raise U.S. food safety enforcement to international standards. SSA’s reform proposals are based upon the more comprehensive food safety mechanisms found in the European Union (EU), Japan and Canada.
“Compared to the EU, Japan, and Canada, the FDA is the least effective seafood safety regime,” explained John Williams, executive director of the SSA. “FDA tests a minute proportion of imports, lacks strong penalties for violations, and has severe delays in enforcement compared to its international counterparts. Since FDA is less stringent than other major markets, the United States has become a dumping ground for contaminated seafood.”
Reform proposals include requiring that exporting countries administer food safety laws that are at least equivalent to U.S. laws; verifying that individual exporters adhere to such laws; mandatory minimum inspection and testing rates; significant penalties for noncompliance with U.S. safety standards; and, increased cooperation with major seafood importing countries.
For example, where FDA tests around one percent of all shrimp imports, the EU tests twenty percent and as much as 100 percent if problems arise, Japan between 25 percent and 100 percent, and Canada between 5 percent and 100 percent. The law mandates minimum inspection rates in Canada and Japan.
When problems are found, the other countries take action much sooner than the FDA. The time between rejection of product and enforcement is 45 days in Canada and 60 days in the EU compared to more than 348 days by FDA. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees 20 percent of the U.S. food supply, takes action in 45 days.
The EU, Japan, and the USDA also have the authority to ban products from countries after repeated violations. FDA lacks this authority. The FDA also does not require food safety equivalence with supplying countries like the EU, Japan, Canada and USDA.
“SSA is grateful for the attention Congress is dedicating to seafood safety. In support of the numerous efforts to improve the FDA, we have developed recommendations that would bring the agency’s enforcement standards closer to those of the EU, Japan, Canada and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Williams. “We look forward to working with our elected officials to reach parity with international food safety enforcement standards.”
SSA is an alliance of the U.S. warmwater wild shrimp fishery from eight states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.