Mar. 23 —
THURSDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) — Troubles with tainted products from China continued Thursday, as U.S. health officials halted the import of farmed seafood from that country.
“The FDA is not allowing the import of these Chinese farmed seafood products until the importers can prove that the seafood is free from harmful contaminants,” Dr. David Acheson, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s assistant commissioner for food protection, said during an afternoon teleconference.
He identified the banned fish as catfish, basa (similar to catfish), shrimp, dace (similar to carp) and eel, which he said may contain chemicals that are potentially carcinogenic.
“The FDA will start to detain these products at the border until the shipments are proven to be free of residues from drugs that are not approved in the United States for use in farm-raised fish,” Acheson said.
However, he added, “there is no imminent threat to the public health, because of the low levels of contaminants. But the banned substances could cause serious health problems if consumed over a long period of time — years.”
“FDA is taking these actions because there have been continued violations with no signs of abatement,” he said. “We have seen the involvement of a number of exporters, so we have seen the need to broaden this to a countrywide alert.”
The action follows reports Wednesday that 900,000 tubes of toothpaste imported from China contaminated with chemical used in antifreeze were found in institutions for the mentally ill, hospitals, prisons and juvenile detention centers in Georgia and North Carolina, according to The New York Times.
Also this week, regulators in China closed 180 food plants after uncovering more than 23,000 food safety violations. Despite the crackdown, China denies that its food exports are dangerous.
All of that was preceded by the largest pet food recall in U.S. history because of tainted additives from Chinese companies.
In the current case, the FDA doesn’t know how much of the U.S. supply these fish from China represent, Acheson noted.
Approximately four-fifths of the seafood consumed in this country is imported from about 62 countries, according to the FDA’s import alert.
China remains the biggest producer of aquacultured seafood in the world, accounting for 70 percent of the total production and 55 percent of the total value of aquacultured seafood exported worldwide.
China is also the No. 3 exporter of seafood to the United States, the agency noted. Shrimp and catfish products are two of America’s top 10 most-consumed seafood products.
The contaminants found in the fish are the antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, gentian violet, and fluoroquinolone. Nitrofuran, malachite green and gentian violet, which are used to treat fungal infections, have been shown to be carcinogenic with long-term exposure in lab animals. The use of fluoroquinolones in food animals may increase antibiotic resistance to this class of antibiotics.
Fish farmers in China are purposely adding these chemicals to the fish feed and water to deal with fungal and bacterial infections, Acheson said.
“None of these substances is approved for use in farm-raised seafood in the United States, and the use of nitrofurans and malachite green in aquaculture is also prohibited by Chinese authorities,” Acheson said.
Incidents of contamination of Chinese farmed fish go back at least six years. “There have been problems with farmed fish products produced in China and exported to the U.S. since 2001,” Margaret O’ K. Glavin, FDA’s associate commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, said during the teleconference.
In 2006, the FDA placed a countrywide alert on all Chinese eel due to residues of malachite green, Glavin said.
Import bans on farm-raised fish are not limited to China. “There are import bans on farm-raised fish from particular manufactures in other countries,” Galvin said.
The current FDA’s alert is based on an increased monitoring of imported seafood. From October 2006 through May 2007 the FDA found residue of unapproved animal drugs and/or unsafe food additives in seafood imported from China.
During that time, the FDA tested 89 samples consisting of catfish, basa, shrimp, dace and eel from China. Of these, 25 percent were found to contain drug residues. These included nitrofurans detected in shrimp, malachite green detected in dace, eel and catfish and basa, and gentian violet detected in eel and catfish. In addition, fluoroquinolones were found in catfish and basa. Chinese authorities have acknowledged permitting the use of fluoroquinolones in aquaculture, according to the import alert.
The import alert will remain in effect until the manufacturers can prove to the FDA that their fish are clear of any harmful chemicals, Glavin said.
For people who have these products in their home, the FDA is not recommending destroying them or returning them. In addition, the agency is not recalling Chinese farmed fish from retail stores or restaurants.
Spanish-speaking people can call the Su Familia Health Helpline, at 1-866-783-2645, to have any questions answered. The national helpline offers free health information in Spanish and English, and is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.(EST) Monday through Friday. The helpline is sponsored by The National Alliance for Hispanic Health.
For more information on banned fish from China, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
China’s direct seafood imports grew 32% to $7.03 billion in the first six months of 2019 compared with the same period last year, underling the Asian giant’s seemingly irrepressible appetite for imported seafood.
A crackdown on smuggling through Vietnam also contributed significantly to the increase as seafood trade shifts to official ports of entry from undocumented channels across China’s southwestern border with Vietnam.
The overall effect is China’s half-year imports of seafood have grown by double-digits for four consecutive six-month periods, while direct imports in H1 were almost double those in H1 of 2017 (see chart below).
Crusteanceans continue to be the main driver of import growth, a breakdown of Chinese customs data shows.
In the first six months of this year, imports of frozen warmwater shrimp grew 223% year-on-year in value to $1.55 billion, according to Chinese customs (a breakdown of China’s H1 shrimp imports can be viewed here.)
Imports of other crustaceans, such as New Zealand and Australian rock lobster, American lobster, Russian crab, also hit new highs, with imports of live and fresh lobster worth over three-quarters of a billion dollars.
In H1 of 2019, imports of live and fresh rock lobster grew 15% y-o-y to $530m, while imports of live and fresh American lobster grew 9% to $239m.
In total, imports of the above five categories of crustacean products came to $2.86bn in value, accounting for 41% of total Chinese seafood imports.
China also imported large quantities of finfish, with imports of frozen pangasius fillets growing 27% y-o-y to $144m, while imports of whole frozen halibut grew 44% y-o-y to $159m.
Seafood at a market in China. Credit: Min Jing/.com
Imports of fresh Altantic salmon grew just 5% y-o-y to $357m, however, reflecting the fact more fresh salmon was already being flown directly to China in H1 of 2018 rather than being smuggled through Vietnam.
Meanwhile, imports of frozen mackerel grew 46% y-o-y to $110m.
Earlier this year Norway said China was becoming an increasingly important growth market for whole frozen mackerel, although some of these imports are processed in Chinese factories and re-exported.
Since Chinese smuggling gangs in southwest China began facing tougher crackdowns by authorities, China has experienced a significant shift in trade flows to official ports of entry, such as Guangzhou, Shanghai and Tianjin. Trade of shrimp has been particularly impacted, with Ecuadorian and Indian farmed shrimp almost exclusively imported through Vietnam in the past.
Imports of products processed and re-exported have not been impacted, however, as there is little to be gained from smuggling; raw material imported for reprocessing and re-export is not subject to Chinese import duties.
In H1, fluctuation in raw material prices and catch were the main factors behind change in values of imports of wild-caught cod, pollock, haddock, flatfish and squid (see full table below).
The above $7.03bn figure does not include Chinese imports of fishmeal traded under HS code 230120 or preserved seafood products, such as canned tuna, traded under HS codes 160521 and 160529.
- China’s seafood imports worth over $100m in H1, 2019
- 20 Foods Imported From China That Are Raising Some Serious Questions
- High demand for Alaskan wild caught salmon in China, according to study
- A Tale of a Fish from Two Countries
- Write a Response
- Seafood Safety: What You Need To Know About Fish From China
- The Disgusting Truth About Fish And Shrimp From Asian Farms
China’s seafood imports worth over $100m in H1, 2019
|Product||Value ($m)||Change y-o-y|
|Data from ITC, compiled by Undercurrent News|
|Frozen warmwater shrimp||1,555||223%|
|Frozen Alaska pollock||628||35%|
|Live/fresh rock lobster||530||15%|
|Frozen squid and cuttlefish||421||57%|
|Fresh Atlantic salmon||357||5%|
|Frozen fish nes||353||53%|
|Live/fresh American lobster||239||9%|
|Frozen flat fish||169||9%|
|Frozen pangasius fillets||144||27%|
|Frozen coldwater shrimp||121||-12%|
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20 Foods Imported From China That Are Raising Some Serious Questions
The United States does plenty of trading with other countries, but one of the biggest nations we deal with is China. We spend billions of dollars each year importing all sorts of goods, especially food.
While you might think your imported food is thoroughly vetted, that’s not the case. Not everything is unsafe, but these 20 dangerous foods might be lurking in your kitchen right now!
1. Cod: Believe it or not, this common fish is among the absolute worst foods to get from China. Thousands are cramped in small areas teeming with sewage and garbage, making them highly toxic.
2. Eggs: If you get eggs that were imported from China, you might want to think twice before scrambling them up. Factories there use calcium carbonate and paraffin in their eggs, which can cause serious food poisoning.
3. Lamb: In 2013, police arrested 900 people in China because they were pawning off rat meat as lamb, and that’s disgusting. Officers seized about 20,000 pounds of spoiled rat meat, as well!
4. Wine: If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, you’ll probably want to avoid wine that was “Made in China”. Sure, you’ll find your standard grapes, but you’ll also consume sugar, dyes, and artificial flavors. Cheers!
5. Tea: Even though China is the biggest purveyor of tea throughout the world, close to 29 toxic chemicals have been found in various brands. Luckily, none of them were exported to other countries, but still…
6. Industrial salt: For years, industrial salt has been sold throughout China as table salt. However, this type of sodium is not meant for human consumption; it can cause hypothyroid problems and reproductive system disorders.
7. Watermelon: Many of the watermelons exported from China are covered in a highly harmful pesticide that causes them to grow at rapid rates. Buy your produce locally to avoid getting sick.
8. Tilapia: Much like the factory-farmed cod, these fish are placed into small overcrowded areas where the water is full of toxic chemicals. The fish breathe in the chemicals and then end up on your dinner plate.
9. Rice noodles: The Chinese sure love their noodles, but you should probably try to avoid imported rice noodles. Some factories use sulfur dioxide to make their noodles appear fresh. This chemical has been linked to cancer.
10. Pork: Some people prefer beef over pork, but in China, beef is about twice as expensive. So what does a company do to counter the problem? They pump borax-filled additives into their pork to make it look like beef!
11. Garlic: Chinese garlic farms are known to be coated in chemical products before the garlic is picked and shipped to stores. If you ever eat Canadian garlic and then Chinese garlic, you can instantly taste the difference.
12. Mushrooms: When food inspectors examine mushrooms coming in from China, they often find tainted batches. Some companies will even label their product “organic” just to increase sales.
13. Plastic rice: Nearly every meal in China is eaten with rice, so you’d think they would ensure it was safe, right? Nope. It turns out many factories add a cancer-causing synthetic resin to their rice. Gross!
14. Milk: Melanin is a chemical that causes serious damage to kidneys, and it’s been found in imported milk. The problem is so bad that six children have died over recent years and 300,000 have gotten very ill.
15. Apple juice: Amazingly, 50 percent of the apple juice sold in the United States comes out of China. This is scary since the number of pesticides sprayed on the fruit prior to processing is at an all-time high. Stick to water, instead!
16. Cabbage: During the super high temperatures of the summer months, Chinese farmers will spray a highly toxic formalin solution onto cabbage to keep them looking fresh. Best not to dabble.
17. Peas: Wasn’t it John Lennon who said, “Give peas a chance”? Well, you don’t want to give canned peas from China a chance. In 2005, food inspectors found artificially colored fake peas in thousands of cans.
18. Black pepper: You might have heard of the “famous” Chinese black pepper, but if you ever get a chance to try it, you might want to pass. Some people are simply selling hardened mud pellets!
19. Oil: A massive food company in China made the disgusting decision to recycle used olive oil from thousands of restaurants, filter it, and then resell it. Oil vey!
20. Chicken: Avian influenza and other food-borne illnesses are prevalent in China, so when it comes to imported chicken, you might want to walk in the other direction. It’s never the right time to get salmonella.
In China, the salmon labeling controversy follows a litany of food labeling problems that have angered consumers and cast doubt on the country’s ability to enforce safety standards. Melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, was found in dairy products that sickened tens of thousands of children in 2008. In 2013, police accused traders of selling rat and mink as mutton. In 2014, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recalled meat labeled as donkey after testing showed it contained fox meat.
The new rules in China came three months after state media recirculated a video segment profiling a large freshwater fishery at the Longyangxia Reservoir in Qinghai Province. The company, it said, supplied one-third of China’s salmon. That piqued the interest of other media in China, as Qinghai is an inland province far from the ocean. Subsequent reports said a considerable amount of fish labeled as salmon in China was actually rainbow trout.
The industry argued that the fish are essentially the same — and Chinese regulators this week agreed. The rules issued this week by the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance, an industry group affiliated with China’s Ministry of Agriculture, said that though rainbow trout can be marketed as salmon, markets and restaurants also have to list the species of the fish and its origin. For example, a label might read “salmon (Atlantic salmon)” or “salmon (rainbow trout).”
Higher-cost rainbow trout are often raised in fiberglass tanks or in cages in oceans. Some fish breeders add salt into the water, though its effect on parasites has not been widely studied, said Dr. Kwok, the fish farming expert. He said Atlantic salmon also carry parasites, but they are highly unlikely to be infectious to humans.
China’s fish industry defends the safety of its freshwater production, saying that the waters at China’s fish farms are carefully controlled.
“Whether salmon has parasites does not depend on whether it is bred in seawater or freshwater, but rather on whether its growth can be safely monitored,” said another industry group, the China Fisheries Association, in an announcement that has since been removed from its website.
In fact, the group added, consumers might be pleased with rainbow trout instead of salmon. In countries like Norway and Chile, it claimed, “many locals prefer rainbow trout, and the price of rainbow trout is higher than that of Atlantic salmon.”
Chinese internet users ridiculed claims about the rainbow trout’s higher value, saying that they would rather just have the regular salmon, please, because they could not afford to carry parasites.
High demand for Alaskan wild caught salmon in China, according to study
A new survey shows an interest in Alaskan salmon among a growing Chinese middle class, including a potential market for fish heads, skins and bones.
China is already the largest exported market of Alaskan seafood, but a recent report from the Alaska Sea Grant suggests the Chinese market for wild caught Alaskan salmon may be growing.
KDLG’s Nick Ciolino has more:
Listen Listening… / 2:56 Nick Ciolino reports…
Most of the Alaskan salmon harvest is exported, and according to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a third of those exports go to China. Some of that salmon is consumed domestically by the Chinese, and some is processed and re-exported to other countries.
The Sea Grant survey shows a growing interest in Alaskan salmon among a burgeoning Chinese middle class with disposable income.
“Most of the consumers know Alaska, and then when we asked those questions they were excited about Alaskan seafood or salmon,” said Angie Zheng, co-author of the Sea Grant report.
Zheng’s consumer study called for the surveying of more than a thousand Chinese grocery shoppers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Consumers were questioned on their shopping habits, and on their interest and perception of Alaska. She says the Chinese recognize Alaskan seafood as some of the cleanest, healthiest protein in the world.
“From local consumers’ perspective—their consumption perspective—I think there is a huge demand. There is a huge emerging local consumers market,” said Zheng.
This demand comes alongside an uptick in the United States domestic market for wild caught salmon filets, and like the United States, the Chinese are becoming more interested in where their food comes from. The Chinese economy has seen some growth in the last ten years, and with that growth has come an increase in pollution. In the wake of several national food scandals, the emerging wealthy Chinese middle class has become more food conscious, and is willing to spend more to eat healthier, according to the study.
“There is very quick economic development in China, that’s why there is a rising of the middle class. Meanwhile, accompanied with the economic development, there are environmental pollutions; there are food safety scandals. So those actually turn out to be concerns for the consumers,” said Zheng.
There is also a market in China for fish heads, bones and skins—delicacies part of traditional Chinese cuisine. The report shows salmon heads on sale in Chinese markets at $4.99 a pound, skins for $2.46 a pound, and bones for $5.10 a pound.
“For fish head and bones, usually we cook it in soups, and Chinese consider those soups as very healthy soups, and for the skins sometimes people do the skin salad,” said Zheng.
Few if any processors in Alaska are selling salmon heads to China, according to ASMI International Marketing Director Hannah Lindoff. The bulk of the fish head supply is from farmed salmon. Farmed salmon heads are usually larger than wild caught, and they are sold with the collar—a part of the anatomy included in wild caught fish sold as head and gutted.
“There is expense incurred in Alaska to process heads, to freeze them, to ship them. And this is not a dirt cheap item, but something that our processors would need to at least break even on,” said Lindoff.
The peak of the sockeye run is soon approaching in Alaska, and indications show the initiatives in the state to increase the quality of salmon sold in the market could be accompanied with an increase in market demand—a demand domestically for filets, and for the entire fish abroad.
Reach KDLG fisheries reporter Nick Ciolino at [email protected] or 907-842-5281
I love the unique taste of salmon, which is fortunate for me as it’s truly one of nature’s superfoods. Salmon is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 oils EPA and DHA, protein and vitamin D and also is low in dangerous metals such as mercury. I oftentell people to eat oily fish such as salmon at least once a week to dramatically decrease their risk for heart disease. A 2006 review study in JAMA shows that a daily dose of only 250-500 mg of omega-3 fatty oils can lower your risk of sudden death from heart disease by 36%, and from all-cause mortality by 17%; more than 500 mg daily actually provides very little extra benefit. And as 100 grams (3 ounces) of farmed salmon has over 2 grams of omega-3 (more than wild salmon has), even one serving a week may be enough because the healthy oils can remain in our tissues forweeks. This is all great news, right? But when I tell my patients in Beijing this fantastic news, they usually reply the same way: “I’d love to eat more fish here, but I never know which store I can trust.”
When my wife and I first arrived in Beijing nine years ago, we first bought our fish and other meat from the large international supermarkets Carrefour and Walmart, mostly because we assumed (for better or worse) that these stores would have superior quality control and safety standards, especially with imported foods. And that worked well for many years, especially as these markets slowly started to sell more organic options. Later on, we discovered the German-run Metro 麦德龙 hypermarket, and we immediately switched almost all our meat and produce purchases there, due to their outstanding logistics and traceable food chain. In other words, we trust them, and trust is a really big deal here in China. Metro’s salmon is mostly from farmed ponds in Faroe Island, a very safe area in the north Atlantic which is antibiotic-free and also certified by the non-profit Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). Ikea, just up the street from Metro, also has an impressive selection of imported frozen salmon from Scandinavian waters, again all certified by the ASC or MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), and at very reasonable prices. Both stores sell their salmon for ~60-70 RMB/500g. So for those of you who don’t trust your fish in Beijing: there’s my answer.
Comparison of omega-3 and mercury levels in various fish
We still love Metro and Ikea but our #1 choice now for salmon is the monthly group buy, called GroupBuyByBianca, organized by the staff formerly from the Chef Too restaurant. Once a month they’ll trek to Beijing’s wholesale fish market; choose farmed salmon from Norway, Canada, or Faroe Island; de-bone and vacuum pack and then deliver to your door in chilled containers. It’s a fantastic service, and we usually get half a salmon every couple of months which we store in our freezer. Bianca and the team also sell imported cod and other meats in season. To sign up and order, follow their WeChat ID “GroupBuyByBianca” or email . The cost depends on market prices but recently is usually ~45RMB/500g plus 10% and a flat 65 RMB processing fee.
Our other newer options for buying fish and meat are again online. The first is the wonderful local organic farm TooToo, which I’ve mentioned before as a very trustworthy, internationally certified local organic farm with a terrific distribution chain, easy online payment, professional delivery service and unbeatable value of organic produce. It’s an awesome resource for Beijingers — plus their website at tootoo.cn has English and Chinese! You can buy 200g bags of Norwegian salmon for 36-50 RMB each. Besides salmon, they now offer a large selection of meats from many different sources — check out their long list of imported fish here. We’ve had particular success with shellfish from Europe — mussels from Scotland and shrimp from Ecuador were delicious.
Besides TooToo, there are now a bewildering number of players in China selling foods online via apps and websites, with ridiculous amounts of investments from all the big internet players and finance companies. One such store my wife uses often is called yiguo (易果) at yiguo.com. We liked them initially for their imported fruits but they also have a decent selection of meat, including a special section for imported beef. Other large sites like yihaodian, Womai and JD.com’s grocery store are notable because they both have their own supply chains and distribution centers, which in theory could provide consumers better quality and more traceable products (with quicker deliveries, I’ve noticed). Amazon China also has their own online grocery store. All of these e-markets carry a big selection of imported foods of all types, far more than you would ever see in any local market.
Many expats get their salmon and meat from the small international markets such as April Gourmet or Jenny Lou’s, and that’s fine of course, and it’s certainly convenient for many on the way home from work. I just think the prices can be a lot higher than other options (see the comparison chart below), and I also worry about low sales volumes in small markets in terms of food safety. Many people also buy salmon at local markets like the popular Sanyuanli market, but I personally feel they have extremely inadequate food safety there; most vendors’ meats sit in the open air at room temperature, uncovered, on wooden slabs, with flies buzzing around. Do I really need to break down how many violations of basic food safety I just mentioned in that one sentence? I wouldn’t recommend buying meat from any market anywhere in the world if it’s sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.
Besides making your own salmon, eating in restaurants is definitely the next best option. All you sushi lovers can easily get your weekly omega-3 fix with even a few slices of salmon. Beijing is blessed with plenty of excellent Japanese restaurants and salmon dishes. Our favorite sushi place is a small Japanese market called yuqing (鱼清) just next to Yotsuba along the Liangma canal waterfront across from the Four Seasons Hotel; you can choose your raw fish from their shelf and the chef will prepare it right there for you to eat in the store.
What about the big percentage of readers who take a daily supplement of fish oil, including myself? This indeed has been long recommended even by the American Heart Association, but unfortunately the most recent studies, much larger than earlier studies, disturbingly show very little benefit from the supplement. There must be something else besides omega-3 in the actual fish that provides the heart-healthy benefit. Anyway, when my supply runs out, I won’t be continuing that anymore.
So there you have it; I hope I’ve convinced some of you that healthy fish = healthy heart. And for Beijingers, it’s not nearly as hard as you may have thought to add safe salmon into your diet, even at a reasonable price. For those of you in China out of the tier one cities or not near a good market, now there are plenty of online options to get salmon delivered right to your door. If you’re really worried about trust, sustainable fishing, and seafood free of chemicals and antibiotics, just stick with vendors that have ASC, BAP or MSC certification stickers on the fish packaging — Ikea and Metro would be your safest bets.
In terms of general value, here’s a nice graph from the JAMA review showing relative money spent on different types of fish to get your daily 250 mg of omega-3:
Estimated Costs of Consuming the equivalent of 250 mg/d EPA + DHA From Fish Follow me on:
A Tale of a Fish from Two Countries
Posted by Craig A. Morris, Deputy Administrator of the AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program in Trade Feb 21, 2017 The Country of Origin Labeling regulations require most grocery stores to provide the country of origin for fish and shellfish, and the method of production (farm-raised or wild-caught), at the point of sale where consumers make purchasing decisions.
How can fish in a grocery store be labeled as both “Alaskan” and “Product of China” on the same package? The answer is that although much of the seafood sold in the United States is labeled with a foreign country of origin, some of that same seafood was actually caught in U.S. waters.
Under the Country of Origin Labeling program regulations – enforced by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – when fish are caught in U.S. waters and then processed in a foreign country that foreign country of processing must appear on the package as the country of origin. This processing usually takes the form of filleting and packaging the fish into the cuts you see in the grocery store seafood department or frozen food aisle. However, if the fish was actually caught in Alaskan waters, retailers are also able to promote the Alaskan waters the fish was actually caught in, in addition to the country in which the processing occurred.
An example of this would be when a wild cod is caught off the coast of Alaska and, due to economic factors, is shipped to another country to be fabricated into fillets and packaged. If this process of turning a whole fish into packaged fillets occurs in China, the cod fillets are declared “Wild Caught Product of China” upon import into the United States. However, if the importer can demonstrate that the cod was caught in Alaskan waters, the packaged cod fillets are also eligible to say “Alaskan”.
The Country of Origin Labeling regulations require most grocery stores to provide the country of origin for fish and shellfish, and the method of production (farm-raised or wild-caught), at the point of sale where consumers make purchasing decisions. Suppliers to retailers, including distributors, repackers, processing facilities, harvesters, and importers, are also required to convey this Country of Origin Labeling information to their subsequent buyers.
The Country of Origin Labeling program, in close partnership with many State and Federal agencies, assesses labeling compliance in grocery store locations across the United States every year. In addition, the Country of Origin Labeling program audits the supply chain to verify the accuracy of country of origin and method of production declarations.
Not only are seafood labels checked for mandatory country of origin labeling declarations, but much of the fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, ginseng, lamb, goat, and chicken at your local grocery store must also include country of origin information. For more information about the mandatory Country of Origin Labeling program, visit: www.ams.usda.gov/cool.
The Country of Origin Labeling regulations require most grocery stores to provide the country of origin for fish and shellfish, and the method of production (farm-raised or wild-caught), at the point of sale where consumers make purchasing decisions. Category/Topic: Trade
Write a Response
Lydia Dec 05, 2016
So is this exchange of cod part of the COOL Act that designates meat labeling changes?
Trade has gone array while we were sleeping, it seems. Handling of food is not being monitored the way U.S. Americans believe.
I knew about this issue and am glad to see it brought into the limelight.
The more people know, then actions to stop bad practices can be best addressed.
Michael Pace Jan 30, 2018
Why are the rules for some stores and not all? Name stores exempt from this requirement please.
Ben Weaver Feb 01, 2018
@Michael Pace – thank you for your question about which retail food stores are subject to COOL requirements. Stores that annually sell only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, and other retail fish markets and butcher shops that do not purchase fruits and vegetables for resale in an amount greater than the $230,000, are not considered retailers under this law and are not subject to COOL requirements. USDA has no authority to maintain records on the name and address of stores that are exempt from COOL requirements.
There are more than 37,000 facilities nationwide that are required to provide country of origin information on covered commodities at the point of sale. They include national firms such as Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, and Costco.
Kristen Waring Feb 18, 2018
Is the USDA working to bring back labeling for beef and pork or is that requirement gone for good?
Ben Weaver Feb 28, 2018
@Kristen Waring – While the ultimate fate of COOL for beef and pork at the federal level was decided two years ago after Canada and Mexico filed a dispute with the World Trade Organization, proposals recently began circulating among certain states requiring retailers to indicate the country of origin of beef sold.
Since 2016 retailers and their suppliers are no longer required to convey country of origin information for beef or pork products to their buyers and consumers under the mandatory COOL program. Imported beef and pork products sold in consumer ready packages however, must still bear the foreign country of origin under USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulations.
In general, packers and retailers may voluntarily provide origin information to their consumers, as long as the information is truthful and not misleading. Packers and retailers should work directly with FSIS for guidance and label review.
Country of origin information for the remaining covered commodities must still be conveyed to buyers and consumers. For additional questions about COOL, please visit: www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/cool, contact the COOL Program by e-mail, [email protected], or by phone (202) 720-4486.
USDA’s Economic Research Service recently released a comprehensive study that sheds light on the issue of food labels, including COOL. The findings offers excellent background about retail compliance with COOL as well as consumer information regarding labels. For a copy of this report, please view the Beyond Nutrition and Organic Labels—30 Years of Experience With Intervening in Food Labels report.
Rita Filler Jul 27, 2018
We only buy food grown and processed in the USA. If there is any confusion, we figure we can do without.
Mary Reitz Feb 10, 2019
All products packaged in China and Korea should be banned from entering the United States.
Ben Feb 20, 2019
Insane. I will never buy fish again in america until the USDA bans chinese imported and processed fish. China has ZERO health regulations and this once again shows the USDA putting Americans health at risk. Shame on you!
Walter Contreras Mar 10, 2019
Not COOL I do not trust the Chinese government. They are notorious for not breaking the law.
Cory Herbst Apr 28, 2019
Country of origin labeling
When fish are caught in U.S. waters and then processed in a foreign country that foreign country of processing must appear on the package as the country of origin. If the fish was actually caught in Alaskan waters, retailers are also able to promote the Alaskan waters the fish was actually caught in.
Fish caught in Alaska but processed into say fillets and packaged in China must be labeled in china must be labeled as coming from China.
I do believe this labeling is misleading to consumers if they were fished in one country and processed in another the labeling should always say the correct country of origin then say processed in the other country. I’m not sure if it is harmful or helpful to domestic producers unless other countries are monopolizing U.S. waters too much or if they can farm our own fish and sell it to us cheaper than we can produce it ourselves. If we produce in a similar a competitive product at a comparable price I don’t see how it could be harmful.
Shirley Jacobsen Jun 11, 2019
Why can’t we process here in USA?
Art Sanchez Sep 04, 2019
Very good and interesting information – explains it well…thanks.
JEM Oct 08, 2019
How do we know that the packaged fish from China is actually the wild caught Alaskan type as claimed? Is there any oversight in China? How’s about integrity of their goods and their past history of adding all sorts of fish cuts to their final product….
It’s a shame that the packaging is mosly mis-leading as the “product of China” is in small print…
jane Oct 22, 2019
Inquiry still remains and not answered. If product purchased states it was caught in Alaskan waters but ——- processed in China, is the processing of COD filets SAFE for consumption?
How is the Alaskan cod processed in China?????
Ben Weaver Oct 25, 2019
@jane – thank you for your interest in the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulation. You asked about the food safety of Cod fillets labeled as “caught in Alaskan waters, processed in China.” COOL is a federal retail labeling law that requires retailers (most grocery stores and supermarkets) to provide country of origin information to consumers for certain covered commodities. Commodities subject to the law and regulation include muscle cuts and ground portions of chicken, lamb and goat meat; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; wild caught and farm-raised fish and shellfish; raw peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and ginseng. The intent of the law is to provide consumers with additional information on which to base their purchasing decisions in grocery stores and supermarkets. COOL is not a food safety initiative Other federal agencies address food safety standards and conduct food safety inspections.
USDA does not have authority to regulate food safety of fish and shellfish species other than catfish. Catfish inspection is carried out by USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service. Food safety of all other fish and shellfish species is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). FDA’s Seafood Safety Division and NOAA Fisheries may be better able to answer your question regarding the specifics of food safety protocols and inspections on Cod fillets labeled as you describe.
The FDA Seafood Safety Division’s website www.fda.gov/seafood provides up-to-date consumer information and advice, guidance documents and regulations for industry, as well as science and research content for anyone interested in seafood.
NOAA Fisheries operates as Seafood Inspection Program. Information about NOAA Fisheries’ seafood inspections can be accessed at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/insight/noaas-seafood-inspection-program
We suggest you submit your question to FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) using their Inquiry Form page: cfsan.secure.force.com/Inquirypage
You may also contact NOAA Fisheries using their “Contact Us” page: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/contact-us
Thank you again for your interest in COOL. If you have additional questions about any aspect of USDA’s COOL regulation and its administration, please contact USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s Food Disclosure and Labeling Division by e-mail: [email protected] or by phone: (202) 720-4486.
Seafood Safety: What You Need To Know About Fish From China
Your first question may be, how do I know my fish is from China, and secondly, why should I be worried about it?
It’s actually more common than not that the fish in your local market has come from China. The American seafood industry is flooded with imported seafood products. According to the Office of Food Safety at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more than 80 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported, mostly from China, Vietnam and the Philippines, and over 40 percent of all seafood is essentially farm-raised seafood.
Indeed, fish is an excellent source of lean protein and essential fatty acids such as omega-3, is good for your heart health, and low in fat and calories. But depending on where your fish is coming from, you may be getting a lot more than you bargained for…and it definitely isn’t just vitamins and nutrients.
Safety Standards for Seafood
The primary issue is the lack of food safety standards in countries such as China, Vietnam and the Philippines. The safety of such products has been a concern for the FDA as more and more seafood products from Asia have been found to be contaminated with banned chemicals, carcinogens, antibiotics (even expired antibiotics) and pesticides.
A rational response would be to just reject such seafood imports coming to the United States, but the FDA inspects less than 1 percent of our imported seafood. In fact, it was reported by EconomyInCrisis.org that Alabama, which has some of the most stringent seafood safety testing rules, regularly rejects between 50 and 60 percent of imported seafood!
Eating unregulated, contaminated seafood over the long term could have harmful effects on our bodies, but this issue has yet to be studied. Even the bright pink salmon in the stores may be colored with synthetic pigments because some salmon is not naturally pink due to its altered natural diet. Another concern is the increasing use of antibiotics in farm-raised fish. Because of the overcrowding of the fish in aqua farms, diseases spread rampantly, and the widespread use of antibiotics can, at the very least, contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
What You Can Do About Seafood Safety
Here are some tips for conscientiously choosing and eating seafood:
- Look at where the fish is coming from. Beware of statements such as “prepared for,” “packed by” or “imported by” that do not state the country of origin. Ideally, try to buy seafood that was caught in U.S. waters, or look for fish imported from Canada, Iceland, or New Zealand, which do have stringent seafood safety regulations.
- Know your fishmonger. Buy from a local fishmonger who has been in business for a while, is buying directly from local distributors and can answer specific questions about the fish.
- Opt for wild fish over farm-raised fish. Avoid imported seafood grown in confined aquacultured areas. Studies have also consistently found levels of PCBs, dioxins, antibiotics and mercury to be higher in farm-raised fish than wild fish.
- If you live near a coast, buy local and fresh fish
- Select fish lower on the food chain such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel. Larger fish may have accumulated more concentrated contaminants. Also, another benefit is that smaller fish tend to have greater levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Vary your seafood choices to minimize overexposure to any particular contaminants. If you enjoy fish, eat it in a well-rounded fashion with different options as much as possible. For example, don’t always get the tilapia; try the sole or catfish too.
Jiao Wen, President, and Mandy, Business Department Vice Manager of the Qingdao Kangbao Foodstuffs Co Ltd.
Qingdao in the Shandong province is a major area for fish processing companies in China and Kangbao Foodstuffs CO., LTD operation is similar to many other processing companies in the region. The company processed about 6,000 tons raw material last year, the majority (about 70%) is arrow tooth flounder production. Remaining production is made up by Greenland halibut, Pacific Ocean perch, rock sole and cod.
Imports from abroad, are re-exported to Japan
Sushi products are processed from arrow tooth flounder and supplied to the Japanese market. Other raw materials are processed into both fillets and portions depending on the client’s orders. The raw material is all imported from outside China. Halibut is primary imported from Greenland, perch and rock sole from USA and the rest from the EU.
At the moment, the primary end market is Japan. Some importers in Japan buy from Kangbao Foodstuffs and sell to other wholesalers, trade companies, supermarkets or even directly to sushi restaurants. Some of their buyers even have their own factory in Japan, so they buy fillets or portions from Kangbao and will do a second level of processing in Japan, for example breading or adding flavour. They also have exported to USA in the past. Exporting to Europe would be of interest if there was an opportunity.
Arrow tooth flounder is the most important product accounting for 70% of the approximately 6,000 tonnes of raw material that the company processed in 2013.
Wages and expectations rise
Currently Kangbao Foodstuffs holds the BRC, MSC, HACCP and EU certificates. In the Japanese market, many seafood products are consumed raw, and for this reason microbial control is much stricter. The factory has a laboratory to monitor quality and safety and the company president says the company’s internal standards are more demanding than those required in the certifications schemes.
The biggest challenge for the company is that raw material prices have been increasing more than 25% per year while the sales price has more or less stayed the same. The competition is very hard on the Japanese market. Last year the worker salaries were increased by 5-10%, but in 2014 there has been no room to raise the workers’ salaries again. That is a problem when everything becomes more expensive in the society.
Addressing new challenges ahead
The company is now considering initiating production for the local market to supplement the exports to Japan. Selling on the local market would give a greater degree of ability and reduce the dependence on a single market. The company is still able to get the labour they need to do the fish processing on the factory floor. In the future productivity could be increased by introducing automated processing equipment in the plant, but for now manual processing is more useful and feasible.
|Qingdao Kangbao Foodstuffs Co. Ltd.|
Jiaodong Industrial Park
Tel.: +86 532 88265513
Fax: +86 532 88265718
President: Jiao Wen
Business Dept. Vice Manager: Mandy
Activity: Frozen food processing
Facilities: Three processing factories
Products: Fillets and portions of arrow tooth flounder, Greenland halibut, Pacific Ocean perch, rock sole, and cod
Certificates: BRC, MSC, HACCP; EU export number
The visit to Kangbao was part of a project was to see if markets existed in China for high quality by-products from the European processing industry. The conclusion is that there is very limited space in the Chinese processing industry for high quality European by-products (fish heads, tails bones etc.) because China has an abundant supply of these product from its existing production. The market price for these products will not cover the costs of packaging, freezing and transporting the by-products to China.
Tilapia has risen to the top as a seafood staple on American dinner tables.
According to the National Fisheries Institute, the mild fish has climbed to become the fourth most eaten seafood in the U.S., behind only shrimp, salmon and canned tuna.
“We never intended to paint tilapia as the cause of anything bad. Our goal was to provide consumers with more information about their fish.”
— Dr. Floyd Chilton, professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest
Mike Picchietti, president of Americas Tilapia Alliance, believes the fish’s popularity comes from the fact that it’s easy to farm, so it’s inexpensive and it goes down easy.
“This fish gives you a lot of leeway to farm. It’s a very hearty variety that is adaptable to different types of feed. It tastes pretty good too,” he told FoxNews.com.
It’s cheap, easy to find, and it’s fish – so it’s good for you, right?
Maybe not. There are some disturbing allegations about the fish, and one is particularly surprising: Some nutritionists have been touting a study that they implies that eating tilapia is worse than eating bacon.
In 2008, researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine released a study comparing fatty acid levels among popular fish. It found that tilapia contained far less omega-3 fatty acid than other American favorites, such as salmon and mackerel. According to the paper, salmon also has a “more favorable” omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. While both fatty acids are important, omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties that play a critical role in brain development and cognitive function and may prevent diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
The report said that the “inflammatory potential of hamburger (80 percent lean) and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia (100 g).”
That set off alarm bells among nutritionists.
The report caused further concern when it stated that farmed tilapia contains high levels of arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that, while necessary to help repair damaged body tissues, has been linked to brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and may exacerbate inflammation.
Dr. Floyd Chilton, the professor of physiology and pharmacology who directed the Wake Forest study, says the comparison of tilapia to pork bacon was taken out of context.
“We never intended to paint tilapia as the cause of anything bad. Our goal was to provide consumers with more information about their fish,” Chilton said. “If your doctor or cardiologist is telling you to eat more fish, then you should look for varieties that have higher levels of omega-3 and avoid those with high inflammatory potential.”
The truth is, tilapia has as much omega-3 as other popular seafood, including lobster, mahi-mahi and yellowfin tuna. Tilapia is also very low in fat. A 4-ounce serving of tilapia has about 1 gram of saturated fat, 29 grams of protein and around 200 mg of omega-3. By comparison, a 1-ounce serving of bacon (about 4 strips) contains 4 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of protein and 52 mg of omega-3.
So people may not want to eat tilapia every day, but that doesn’t mean it has to be avoided altogether, nutritionists say.
“I tell my clients not to just eat one type of fish, no matter what, to reduce your risk of contamination,” says registered dietitian Melainie Rogers, founder of Balance Nutrition, a treatment center specializing in eating disorders in New York City. “Not all fish have the same fatty acid profile, but tilapia in moderation is fine. It has lower cholesterol than red meat – plus it’s easy to cook.”
So eating tilapia isn’t the same as eating bacon, but there’s another rumor going around the Internet: that farm-raised tilapia from China are fed animal feces.
A 2009 study conducted by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited some alarming facts about Chinese farm-raised seafood. Researchers noted that “many of China’s farms and food processors are situated in heavily industrialized regions where water, air and soil are contaminated by industrial effluents and vehicle exhaust.” The report also stated that it “is common practice to let livestock and poultry roam freely in fields and to spread livestock and poultry waste on fields or use it as fish feed.”
The USDA report was based on documents obtained from the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees seafood inspections.
After the study was released, news organizations, including Bloomberg and MSN.com, reported the rampant use of animal feces as food in Chinese aquaculture – specifically calling out the practice on tilapia farms.
But the original USDA report did not specifically cite tilapia. Asked for comment, neither the FDA nor the USDA could confirm that it is common practice in China to feed animal feces to farm-raised tilapia.
FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman said the agency was “not aware of evidence to support the claim that this practice is occurring.”
But if it is, the next question is: How much farm-raised tilapia are we eating from China? The answer is: A lot.
According to Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, over 95 percent of tilapia consumed in the U.S. in 2013 came from overseas, and 73 percent of those imports came from China. One reason is that the fish thrives in a subtropical climate, making it a difficult fish to farm in most of the U.S.
In 2006, Seafood Watch listed farmed Chinese tilapia as “Avoid.” Senior science manager Wendy Norden and science analyst Brian Albaum at Seafood Watch told FoxNews.com that the recommendation was due to poor food quality enforcement and high levels of chemicals, antibacterial drugs (nitrofurans) and malachite green (used to dye silk, leather and paper) in fish samples.
They said that the “Avoid” rating at that time was not due to what the fish were fed, although they did note that “in aquaculture, usually wastes from one animal are unfit to be fed to other animals.”
Today, Seafood Watch gives farmed tilapia from China a “Good Alternative” rating, due to improved enforcement of food legislation. But it cautions that the fish currently tests in the “red zone” for the presence of banned or illegal chemicals such as antibiotics, malachite green and methyl testosterone hormones used in Chinese tilapia production.
The group says tilapia raised in Ecuador, the U.S. or Canada is the best choice.
Americas Tilapia Alliance’s Picchietti told FoxNews.com that he is not aware of the practice of feeding animal feces to tilapia in the U.S., and he said he has not witnessed the practice in China. But he pointed to a 2004 paper, “Domestic Wastewater Treatment in Developing Countries,” that cites the practice of using properly treated wastewater as a sustainable, and ultimately profitable, farming technique.
So what do you do if you’re looking to avoid tilapia, or tilapia that comes from certain countries? It’s not always easy with current labeling standards.
Since 2005, country of origin labeling (COOL), which is overseen by the USDA, requires seafood and shellfish retailers to label product origins. But labeling exceptions and a lack of enforcement make it hard to know exactly what’s on your plate.
Processed seafood such as fish sticks or other prepared food sold at supermarkets and seafood retailers is exempt from labeling. Whole fish sold at grocery stores is required to have a country-of-origin label and to indicate whether the fish has been farm-raised or caught wild, but not everyone does it. The USDA conducts supplier inspections, and stores in violation have a mandated timeframe to correct the problem.
Another thing to keep in mind, especially if you’re looking for farm-raised fish fed with non-GMO feed: The USDA does not currently have guidelines for classifying seafood as organic.
Even though the FDA has consumer guidelines for buying fresh fish, the lack of basic information has some scratching their heads.
The best way to know for sure is to ask a fishmonger directly.
The Disgusting Truth About Fish And Shrimp From Asian Farms
Eighty-six percent of our seafood is imported, and about half of those imports are raised on factory farms, called aquaculture.
Asia is the number one producer of these aquaculture products, dominating 89 percent of the industry, and most of our farmed fish imports come from there, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reports.
Because of shortcuts some farmers are taking in these regions, these products aren’t always safe and FDA testing of them hasn’t caught up, a Mother Jones article by Tom Philpott suggests.
Here are some prime examples of the type of disgusting shortcuts that the Asian fish and shrimp farms do to save a few bucks, from Philpott’s article and a Bloomberg Markets report by Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen and William Bi:
- Tilapia in China’s fish farms, are fed pig and goose manure — even though it contains salmonella and makes the tilapia “more susceptible to disease.”
- In Vietnam, farmed shrimp bound for the US market are kept fresh with heaps of ice made from tap water that teems with pathogenic bacteria.
- Bloomberg also notes that at the same company “there’s trash on the floor, and flies crawl over baskets of processed shrimp stacked in an unchilled room.”
- Like US meat farmers, Asia’s shrimp farmers rely heavily on antibiotics, many of which are banned for use in the United States.
- In May, ABC News bought 30 samples of imported farmed shrimp from across the country and had them tested for antibiotic traces. The result: Three of the samples contained detectable levels of these dangerous antibiotics.
- According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a quarter of the food-borne illness outbreaks caused by imported food from 2005 to 2010 involved seafood — more than any other food commodity.
Philpott goes on to explain that the US FDA does very little testing — about 2.7 percent of incoming aquaculture is visually inspected, and even less, about 0.1 percent is tested for toxins. He writes:
When the agency does test, it does find. For example, in 2008, GAO found, the FDA tested only 34 shrimp samples for residues of nitrofurans—a chemical not approved in the United States for aquaculture and one specifically singled out in Kraemer’s FDA testimony for its ability to cause cancer. Six of the samples tested positive.
Why don’t they ramp up testing? Philpott suggests that it’s not just a lack of funding to do the tests — but also a political decision not to anger partners like China. Read Philpott’s article for more details.
Testing in 2009 that found illegal antibiotics in three types of imported fish from China did result in a temporary ban on these seafoods, but that was lifted and doesn’t seem to have had a lasting effect on how the industry does business, judging by these recent reports.
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