Are food regulators failing consumers?

Food by Shutterstock

This Bloomberg report on seafood products coming out of Asia to the West is disturbing, but not surprising. In recent years we’ve heard about numerous shortcuts in the food production systems in China and the negative health impact that has included sickness and even death.

Hearing about farmed shrimp being fed pig feces is not surprising nor is it a shock to hear about tainted ice being used in Vietnam to store farmed shrimp. I know what shrimp, crabs and fish eat in the wild so an under no illusions about their diet, but feeding them raw sewage is a bit much. I’ve also spent time in Vietnam so know that there’s no way I would ever drink the local tap water let alone drink anything that had ice in it or eat food that sat on ice.

My biggest issue with this story is that the regulators are ignoring the problem. This myth that Republicans have promoted for years about self-regulation has been proven to be a pile of pig feces that is more about helping business cut corners than about proper food safety. In the case of Asia, it’s great that there are businesses focused on exporting food that can be purchased in the US (and Europe) at affordable prices, but there is a health cost that’s being ignored.

I personally know someone who was told by a doctor not to eat farm raised crayfish from Asia due to the shortcuts taken (and chemicals used) and there are certainly plenty more people with the problem. The doctor said it was a known issue. If that’s the case, why are food regulators doing so little about this health issue?


Yang Shuiquan, chairman of a government-sponsored tilapia aquaculture association in Lianjiang, 200 kilometers from Yangjiang, says he discourages using feces as food because it contaminates water and makes fish more susceptible to diseases. He says a growing number of Guangdong farmers adopt that practice anyway because of fierce competition.

“Many farmers have switched to feces and have stopped using commercial feed,” he says.

About 27 percent of the seafood Americans eat comes from China — and the shipments that the FDA checks are frequently contaminated, the FDA has found. The agency inspects only about 2.7 percent of imported food. Of that, FDA inspectors have rejected 1,380 loads of seafood from Vietnam since 2007 for filth and salmonella, including 81 from Ngoc Sinh, agency records show. The FDA has rejected 820 Chinese seafood shipments since 2007, including 187 that contained tilapia.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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