The American seafood industry is being flooded with products imported from developing countries, much of which have proven to be contaminated with banned chemicals, poisons, carcinogens and high levels of antibiotics, according to a report by ABC News.
The report found that over 80 percent of the seafood sold in America today is imported, much of it from Third World nations such as China, Vietnam and the Philippines, none of which are known for their food safety standards.
The Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with promoting public health through regulation and supervision of food safety, inspects less than one percent of the nation’s imported seafood. Alabama, one of the few states with stringent seafood safety testing, regularly rejects 50 to 60 percent of imported seafood due to safety concerns, ABC News reported.
But, the FDA’s lack of regulation of food imports is no surprise given how understaffed and underfunded the agency is. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food supply, estimated that it would conduct border inspections of just 0.6 percent of the food it is supposed to regulate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, another agency charged with supervising food safety, conducted inspections on roughly 11 percent of imported foods in 2007.
It is no wonder then that the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year 76 million Americans are afflicted by food poisoning. Of those, an estimated 5,000 will die each year. The Trust for America’s Health found that foodborne illnesses caused by major pathogens cost $44 billion annually in medical care and lost productivity.
The seafood case is just one of many episodes in the ongoing saga of America being invaded with toxic, faulty or dangerous foreign imports.
Recently, over 60 million cans and pouches of dog and cat food originating from China were recalled after, by some estimates, 3,600 American pets died from eating foods contaminated with the toxic chemical melamine.
The blood thinner Heparin manufactured in China was also recalled recently by the FDA after it was found to have caused the deaths of 81 American citizens. Authorities believe that the contaminant, oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, a substance that mimics heparin but costs 99 percent less, entered the drug’s supply chain in China.
In the latter half of 2007, over 25 million childrens toys manufactured in China were recalled after they were found to be contaminated with toxic amounts of lead.
In that same year, roughly 450,000 tires were purchased from a Chinese manufacturer and sold in the U.S after they were found to be faulty and pose dangers to drivers.
Most recently, millions of pounds of Chinese-made drywall were recalled after it was found to emit sulfur gases that ruined numerous air conditioner and refrigerator coils, microwaves, computer wiring, faucets and copper tubing. In addition, rashes, allergic reactions, asthma and sore throats were reportedly caused by exposure to the substance.
U.S. officials have also had to contend with a rash of foodborne illnesses caused by imported peppers, spinach, peanuts and most recently pistachios. And more than 20 countries and markets have banned or recalled milk products from China because of melamine contamination.
The only way to prevent an influx of contaminated imports is better regulation and oversight at the federal level, experts say.
“Consumers may be getting a dose of antibiotics with their seafood dinner, and that’s something that the government should stop,” Caroline Smith DeWaal, a member of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told ABC News.