It seems like an everyday occurrence that food poses a health risk to consumers or is adultered and passed off as something it isn’t. Many of these foods are imported, such as the honey fraud from China and the toxic salmon from commercial salmon farms.
Many of the food scares over the past decade have come from Asian countries. Foods have been contaminated, sometimes intentionally as a result of fierce competition and suppliers trying to cut corners to save money.
Pig Feces Save Seafood Farmers Money
In an effort to save money, many Asian seafood farmers have stopped buying commercial fish feed and have opted for cheap pig feces. It is a highly controversial and dangerous practice because pig feces are often contaminated with bacteria, especially salmonella.
A tilapia farm in the rural region outside of Hong Kong is a prime example. The farm feeds its fish feces from pigs and geese. This is the kind of fish farm US companies are buying from to sell to US consumers. (1)
There are some food and agricultural professionals who claim the facts are overstated by news agencies “cherry-picking” the bad incidences for a dose of sensationalism. Others defend the practice of pig feces stating that the fish aren’t directly eating the feces, but the algae bloom the feces create. They conveniently neglect to delve into the fact that the algae are contaminated with bacteria found in the pig feces.
27% of the seafood sold in the US comes from these Chinese fish farms. The two most common reasons for the FDA rejecting imported seafood are filth and salmonella. (2)
FDA Bans South Korean Shellfish Imports
In May 2012, the FDA recalled South Korean shellfish from the US market after four American consumers became ill after eating South Korean seafood. (3)
The Washington Post reported that the FDA had banned all shellfish from South Korea while it continued its investigation after some of the shellfish tested positive for norovirus. (4)
The norovirus is highly contagious, although not life-threatening. The virus causes acute inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
Unsanitary Conditions in Asian Seafood Farms
Even if you can get past the pig feces aspect of Asian seafood, consider the overall health-risks of eating seafood processed in some of the most unhygienic conditions. According to a Bloomberg report, Vietnam shrimp processed for the US is unsanitary at best.
The processing of the seafood is undertaken in the worst conditions of a non-air-conditioned facility where trash and dirt are scattered all over the production floor. Disease carrying flies flit from one stack of “unchilled processed shrimp” to another. Those flies come from nearby pig farms. (1)
If that’s not enough to take away your appetite, then consider the filthy tubs used to haul the shrimp to the US and the unclean ice used to pack the shrimp for shipping. The ice is made from regular tap water that is not safe to drink until it’s been boiled. That’s the warning given by the Vietnamese Health Ministry because of the bacteria that contaminates the country’s water supply.
Wonder if you’ve consumed shrimp from Vietnam? Chances are you have. Vietnam alone ships over 100 million pounds of shrimp to the US annually. 8% of the shrimp consumed in America comes from Vietnam.
Most alarming is that the FDA only inspects 2.7% of all imported foods and those tested are “frequently contaminated”. (1)
Saving on Grocery Bill Versus Health Risks
Some Asian seafood may be a cheaper choice for your grocery bill, but it could prove to be a health-risk. The best way to protect yourself against buying food that may make you ill is to read the labels to determine the country of origin. At the end of the day, the growing health-risks of imported foods begs the question: Why does our government still allow these harmful contaminated foods to be shipped into our country and sold to unsuspecting Americans? It defies all logic and common sense.
As consumers, we must reclaim responsibility for ensuring the food we purchase is safe and take greater steps to understand the source of the foods we buy.