Fish from China: A few years ago a scandalous report surfaced about the FDA stopping several shipments of contaminated fish imported from hatcheries in China. There were many environmental news reports that followed, all focused on unsafe practices in aquaculture technologies. Fish from China has an unfair advantage over American fisheries. This is because there are different standards for imported seafood than there are for domestic seafood.
Is Fish from China Safe?
A lot has happened since the 2007 report. China hosted the Beijing Olympics and in order to assuage fears of tourists, they enacted new safety standards and a top down approach to monitoring and testing fish. In a perfect world this would suffice, but we do not live in a perfect world. According to Linden Ellis of Business Forum China online, where there is government control and regulation there also lies corruption:
“While overall regulation of fish from China has been weak, there have been initiatives in some cities to better protect citizens from unsafe fish. For example, Shanghai and Beijing have taken the lead after numerous carcinogen-tainted fish were found in major markets. The Olympics served as a good blueprint for how China’s leaders are taking a top-down approach to try to develop a safer food system. Specifically, for the Olympics Beijing established lists of approved suppliers of all food products and ingredients and used a complex tracking system to monitor the food. Such a system caused food and particularly fish prices to rise significantly, and even encouraged corruption to get companies on supplier lists.”
FDA Concerns over Farmed Fish from China
I remember talking with an employee behind the fish market a couple of years ago at Whole Foods. He told me that they don’t sell farmed fish because they are inferior to the real deal. At that time I wasn’t too concerned about whether fish were wild caught or farmed. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of the major FDA bust over imported fish from China. I was more interested in the bottom line and wild caught was way more than I was willing to pay. But a lot of time and an auto immune disorder do a lot to help mold and shape a young mind. I began to do my own research on fish oils when I learned how beneficial they are for inflammatory illness.
Today I have a much different attitude. And apparently I am not alone. The major retailer Target just announced this past January that they have eliminated all farmed salmon from their stores and will now only carry wild Alaskan salmon. This is a trend in the right direction and probably driven by consumer demand.
Now that I have a few successful years under my belt managing auto immune issues and reoccurring sinusitis issues, I have a deeper understanding of just how toxic farmed fish can be, particularly foreign caught varieties often found at my local grocer and big box stores. The majority, about 80%, of all seafood sold in this country is foreign. And according to Consumer Reports,
“the FDA tests only about 2 percent of those imports, mainly for drug residues.
In January 2004, the GAO reported that despite an earlier recommendation, the FDA had not established agreements with other countries to document that their seafood-safety systems are as stringent as the U.S. system.”
And such a system has yet to be set up. In their 2008 Fiscal Year report the FDA makes a similar recommendation:
“(The) FDA identified China, India, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America as areas in which to establish an in-country presence. FDA developed several initiatives intending to improve the sharing of information and understanding of FDA’s regulatory standards and how these standards protect the safety of consumers.”
The inherent problem with this initiative is that it is financially taxing. There are only 800 FDA workers trained to handle foreign inspections and 335 of them work only with drug imports. Common sense tells us that this does not leave much room for inspection of our imported fish.Article continues on next page…