Today's China food warning

The FDA's alert on farm-raised seafood from China is all fine and good, but how are we supposed to know whether the fish we're eating is suspect? Mostly, the stuff to look out for is frozen - breaded shrimp, frozen fillets, that kind of thing. While the origins of fish you buy at the market is normally labeled, there's little way of knowing where this frozen fish is coming from. And forget about the FDA monitoring seafood imports - less than five percent gets looked at in any way. China accounts for 21 percent of all seafood imported into the U.S. ($500 million of that coming through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach). Today's alert covers five major types of seafood: shrimp, catfish, eel, basa (a kind of catfish) and dace (related to carp). From the NYT:

The problems with Chinese seafood are evident in a database of products that the FDA stops at the border. In May, for instance, the F.D.A. turned away 165 shipments from China, 49 of which were seafood. Monkfish was rejected for being filthy. Frozen catfish nuggets were turned away because they contained veterinary drugs. Tilapia fillets were contaminated with salmonella. The problems were even worse in April, when 257 shipments from China were rejected, including 68 of seafood. Frozen eel contained pesticides, frozen channel catfish had salmonella and frozen yellowfin steaks were filthy, the records show. In a report on the F.D.A.ís oversight released in May, Food and Water Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, found that more than 60 percent of the seafood that was rejected at the border by the F.D.A. came from China.

You might recall that last month a Santa Fe Springs seafood importer recalled frozen fish from China - labeled monk fish - because of concerns that it actually might have been blow fish. Big difference - blow fish carries a potentially deadly toxin. The voluntary recall came after reports that two Chicago-area people became ill after eating soup that contained the fish (LABO).

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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