Ngoc Sinh Seafoods Trading & Processing Export Enterprise, a seafood
exporter on Vietnam’s
southern coast, workers stand on a dirty floor sorting shrimp one hot September
day. There’s trash on the floor, and flies crawl over baskets of processed
shrimp stacked in an unchilled room in Ca Mau.
in Ca Mau, Nguyen Van Hoang packs shrimp headed for the U.S. in dirty plastic
tubs. He covers them in ice made with tap water that the Vietnamese Health
Ministry says should be boiled before drinking because of the risk of
contamination with bacteria. Vietnam ships 100 million pounds of shrimp a year to the U.S. That’s
almost 8 percent of the shrimp Americans eat.
Using ice made from
tap water in Vietnam is dangerous because it can spread bacteria to the shrimp,
microbiologist Mansour Samadpour says, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in
its November issue.
“Those conditions -- ice made from dirty water, animals
near the farms, pigs -- are unacceptable,” says Samadpour, whose company, IEH Laboratories
Consulting Group, specializes in testing water for shellfish farming.
Ngoc Sinh has been certified
as safe by Geneva-based food auditor SGS SA, says Nguyen Trung Thanh, the
company’s general director. [For
companies it is in their financial interest to perform perfunctory inspection,
rather than offend their employer. This
arrangement has been used, for example, in the US certification of Organic
foods. Failure to certify is
are trying to meet international standards,” Thanh says.
spokeswoman Jennifer Buckley says her
company has no record of auditing Ngoc Sinh.
Chen Qiang’s tilapia farm in Yangjiang city in China’s Guangdong province,
which borders Hong Kong,
Chen feeds fish partly with feces from
hundreds of pigs and geese. That practice is dangerous for American
consumers, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center
for Food Safety.
manure the Chinese use to feed fish is frequently
contaminated with microbes like salmonella,” says Doyle, who has studied
foodborne diseases in China.
a sweltering, overcast day in August, the
smell of excrement is overpowering. After seeing dead fish on the surface,
Chen, 45, wades barefoot into his murky pond to open a pipe that adds fresh
water from a nearby canal. Exporters buy
his fish to sell to U.S. companies.
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.
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.
[Notice there is no mention of regulatory penalties or the method of
inspection. Is it mere visual
contact the reporters for this story: Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen in Hanoi at email@example.com or William Bi in Beijing at firstname.lastname@example.org to contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan
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