More than 85 percent of the seafood consumed by Americans is imported, with much of it coming from China, Vietnam, and various other Asian countries that have a not-so-consistent track record of food safety. And as it turns out, conditions at many of the foreign facilities where imported seafood is processed before getting shipped to the states are so filthy and contaminated that if consumers knew just how bad things really were, they would likely think twice before buying that pack of scallops or shrimp from the grocery store.
As reported by Bloomberg, workers at Ngoc Sinh Seafoods Trading & Processing Export Enterprise in Vietnam were recently seen hauling plastic baskets of shrimp through the company's filthy, trash-ridden, and bug-infested facility. Containers full of the shrimp were loaded up with ice made from questionable, and often contaminated, tap water that the government recommends boiling before use, which has become the norm rather than the exception when it comes to seafood processing.
Many Chinese seafood farmers feed their fish animal waste
Similar unsanitary conditions are common throughout China as well, which is a major exporter of tilapia and scallops. According to Bloomberg, many seafood farmers in China actually feed their fish feces from pigs, geese, and other cattle, even though the practice is extremely unsafe. Not only does this exposure to animal waste tend to make the fish sick, but it also contaminates their water environments with excrement, which is often polluted with harmful bacteria like salmonella.
"Those conditions -- ice made from dirty water, animals near the farms, pigs -- are unacceptable," said Mansour Samadpour, a microbiologist, to Bloomberg Markets magazine about the dirty secrets of the seafood trade. Samadpour's company, IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group, specializes in testing the cleanliness of water for the shellfish farming industry.
Since the seafood industry is relatively cutthroat these days, certain unscrupulous seafood farmers, particularly in Asian countries, are cutting corners to boost profits, which puts consumers at high risk. In the case of Chinese fish farming, many operators have altogether stopped purchasing safer commercial feed, and have instead turned to exclusively feeding their fish potentially deadly animal waste.
"The manure the Chinese use to feed fish is frequently contaminated with microbes and salmonella," says Michael Doyle, Director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety, about the larger problem of China's seafood farming industry.
FDA dropping the ball in protecting Americans against contaminated seafood
And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to be in charge of regulating the safety of imported seafood, the agency only inspects about 2.7 percent of all imported food, according to available data. The FDA is apparently too busy raiding raw milk dairy farms and imprisoning innocent farmers to bother with protecting the American public against potentially contaminated seafood.