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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the latest in a number of warnings about Chinese products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will halt imports of five types of farmed Chinese seafood -- catfish, basa, shrimp, dace, and eel - amid concerns the species contain antibiotics that are not allowed in North America.
The FDA said it was not recalling seafood already in the U.S., and that drug levels were not dangerous and only slightly above detectable levels. In recent weeks, there have been concerns about contaminated toothpaste, dog food and the paint used in toy trains.
The FDA said it had found that Chinese seafood tested between October 2006 and May 2007 was repeatedly contaminated with antimicrobial agents. Some of the substances included nitrofuran, malachite green and fluoroquinolone, which, according to the FDA, may help build up a resistance to antibiotics when used in food animals.
"We're taking this strong step because of current and continuing evidence that certain Chinese aquaculture products imported into the US contain illegal substances that are not permitted in seafood sold in the US," the FDA said.
"We will accept entries of these products from Chinese firms that demonstrate compliance with our requirements and safety standards," the agency added.
The action by FDA to automatically detain imported Chinese farmed eel, dace, shrimp, basa and catfish "is an important step by the agency to ensure that nations exporting to the U.S. follow our country's food safety regulations," said the National Fisheries Institute. "As a result of the alert, these five products from China must be tested and shown to be residue-free before being released for sale to the consumer."
NFI said the measure will not create a significant disruption in the seafood supply for Americans because of the shrimp consumed in the U.S., more than 80 percent is imported, but only 7 percent is from China; and o catfish consumed in the U.S., about 10 percent comes from China.
NFI commended the FDA's standards for wholesomeness and a "zero tolerance" policy for unapproved antibiotics for imported seafood products. NFI is working with Congress to increase the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition's budget by more than $200 million for fiscal year 2008.