SEAFOOD safety: Of US imported seafood tested in 2015, 12% of farmed shrimp tested positive to unsafe residues, 11% of tilapia, 9% of catfish… 0% of salmon – GAO

The latest/September 2017 report (“FDA and USDA Could strengten efforts to prevent unsafe drug residues”) by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) examines (1) how FDA helps ensure the safety of imported seafood from unsafe drug residues and ways the agency could strengthen its efforts; (2) how FSIS helps ensure the safety of imported catfish from unsafe drug residues and ways the agency could strengthen its efforts; and (3) the extent to which FDA and FSIS coordinate their oversight efforts. GAO reviewed information from each agency and interviewed agency officials and other key stakeholders.

Excerpt (p18 & p19):

From fiscal years 2010 through 2015, FDA refused entry (import refusal) into the United States of 1,726 seafood products for drug-related violations. The majority of the refusals were of exports from four countries: China (37 percent), Malaysia (28 percent), Indonesia (12 percent), and Vietnam (11 percent). Shrimp represented 54 percent of all FDA refusals; other seafood, 32 percent; tilapia, 7 percent; catfish, 6 percent; and salmon, less than 1 percent.

[…] In fiscal year 2015, FDA examined 2.2 percent of all imported seafood entry lines for a variety of food safety issues. The number of examinations is limited by available resources, according to FDA officials. Further, regarding drug residues, in fiscal year 2015 FDA tested 0.1 percent of about 1 million seafood entry lines for drugs of concern to FDA in an effort to detect unsafe residues. Of the imported seafood tested, the percentage that tested positive, by type of seafood was as follows: catfish, about 9 percent (3 of 33 samples); salmon, 0 (0 of 86); shrimp, about 12 percent (67 of 550); tilapia, about 11 percent (28 of 258); and “other” seafood, about 7 percent (14 of 213).

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making five recommendations, including that FDA pursue agreements with other countries to test seafood exported to the United States and that FSIS visit a sample of fish farms as part of foreign country on-site audits; and that FDA and FSIS coordinate in developing testing methods and corresponding residue levels for imported seafood. FDA agreed with or partially agreed with two; FSIS partially agreed with two and stated it already addresses a third. GAO disagrees and believes the recommendations should be implemented.


See the 70-page Highlights of GAO-17-443, a report to the Chairman, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate: