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AOL’s coverage of the Gulf from a food safety perspective has been thorough and accurate. But this article unfortunately plays right into the hyperbole and hysteria created by Food & Water Watch with little or no perspective on the realities of imported seafood.
For starters a minimum of research would expose Food & Water Watch’s suggestion that “many” foreign shrimp farms “densely pack their ponds to produce as much as 89,000 pounds of shrimp per acre” as patently ridiculous. In the same paragraph it is suggested that “properly run shrimp farms yield up to 445 pounds per acre.” Both are fairly close to absurd.
An acre should be capable of producing somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 to 22 thousand pounds. 89,000 lbs is a gross exaggeration, while 445 lbs would suggest the farm has serious production problems and mortality issues that should set off alarm bells.
Meanwhile, throughout this article there is a drum beat that suggests FDA isn’t doing a good enough job and sites myriad import alerts as evidence of dangerous products making it to our shores. But doesn’t that just illustrate that the system is working? “So far this year, the FDA has issued 34 significant alerts involving hundreds of seafood suppliers throughout the world,” – sounds like they’re doing a pretty good job.
But before we get too far into the weeds of regulatory jousting let’s look at the big picture. As they say the proof is always in the pudding. Outbreaks/sicknesses are a fairly good measure of the impact of a certain product on public health. And Food and Water Watch has already told you in this article that “with imported shrimp, we see pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.”
Well, a check of the CDC’s data base on such things finds, for the last two available years (’06,’07), there were 0 outbreaks and 0 illnesses associated with E. coli and salmonella from shrimp—that’s none. And while we’re on the topic, what about all finfish? In that case there was 1 outbreak and 44 illnesses.
Is all of this finger pointing and hand wringing over 44 illnesses in 2 years? With the egg debacle going on now we’re talking about 1,300 illnesses in 2 weeks.
Facts and perspective are sorely needed.