Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Eating Fish Is Good – IF You Know What You’re Getting!

It's a fair bet this guy isn't scarfing up shrimp - especially from Thailand!

A common canard around the world is that Americans are primarily meat eaters. They want their burgers, steaks, pork chops and ….keep the fish. However, consumption stats don’t support that. For example, in 2011 Americans consumed 4.7 billion pounds of seafood. But they may not have been aware that 91 percent of that was imported. The problem? Only 2% of that imported fish was inspected by the FDA. This compares to 15% inspected in Canada and 50% in the Europe Union.

Why such a big deal? One reason may be that, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 % of foodborne illness outbreaks have been traced to seafood from 2005 through 2010. This is more than for any other type of food, including ground meat – which itself is often associated with E. coli. (See e.g. ‘Filet of Filth’  in Mother Jones, Jan-Feb., p. 68)

Another worry and real concern is bacteria like Klebsiella. Since the BP Oil disaster that spewed billions of gallons of petrol into the Gulf of Mexico, Americans have been rightly concerned with eating shrimp from that area. See e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/04/eat-gulf-sea-food-dont-think-so.html

Little wonder Thailand has since become the No. 1 U.S. shrimp supplier. But in 2012 FDA scientists tested 330 sample of shrimp farmed in Thailand and found that 67 turned up positive for Klebsiella, a bacteria resistant to a wide range of antibiotics. Indeed, 32 in the FDA sample of 67 showed resistance to no fewer than eight antibiotics. The FDA researchers concluded from this that “imported shrimp is a reservoir for multi-drug resistant Klebsiella"  – which can trigger everything from urinary tract infections to pneumonia (Ibid.)

Another wake up call: carcinogens in your seafood! The FDA as the MJ report notes, has been similarly lax in testing seafood for residues of nitrofurans, a class of antibiotics banned because of being carcinogenic. In one series of shrimp tests, 6 of 34 samples tested positive. As if this wasn’t bad enough, a Bloomberg Business Week investigation not long ago uncovered that U.S. –bound shrimp from Vietnam were being stored in ice from water laden with bacteria such as salmonella and Klebsiella.

Like Tilapia as a lower cost fish? Watch it! A growing number of Chinese fish farms literally feed their Tilapia on pig manure even though it’s loaded with salmonella. (Ibid.)

Oh, and if you think you’re escaping by purchasing that $7 a pound salmon from the grocery, think again! That salmon is also farm raised, most likely from somewhere in Chile, and loaded with bacteria and other contaminants. Most of this salmon is given a ranking near the bottom by the University of Victoria’s Seafood Ecology Research group. The last time wifey and I had it, some 6 years ago – she became so violently ill that she was going ‘both ways’ and all night long. We haven’t cooked any of the farm-grown grocery salmon since, no matter how ‘pink’ it looks.

Now, we get fresh sockeye salmon from Alaska, or none at all.

As for shrimp, it may be well to follow the advice of the MJ author (ibid.)

“I’ve taken to eating shrimp only as an occasional treat. When I do indulge, I pay up for the wild-caught kind.”

Of course, if you eat your shrimp at Red Lobster you ought to be ok, since the FDA does regularly inspect their kitchens and seafood. At least the corporate chains are doing ok!

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