FDA to increase tests of imported shrimp, crayfish for chloramphenicol

Jun 19, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it will increase testing of imported shrimp and crayfish to look for traces of the antibiotic chloramphenicol, which some countries have found in imports from China and Vietnam.

Federal regulations ban the use of chloramphenicol in food animals and animal feed, the FDA said in its announcement last week. Because the drug has unpredictable effects on different patient populations, it has not been possible to determine a safe level of human exposure to it, officials said.

"The FDA is concerned about any detection of chloramphenicol in shrimp and crayfish," said FDA Deputy Commissioner Lester M. Crawford. The agency said it will bar the importation of any product found to contain the drug.

The FDA plans to increase its sampling of imported shrimp and crayfish from the current level of about 80 tests per year to 382 tests a year, Sebastian Cianci, a spokesman for the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told CIDRAP News. "Total sampling for all seafood will remain unchanged, but within that we're going to run more chloramphenicol tests," he said. The agency will sample products from many countries and at many ports of entry, he added. "If we start to get more positives at one or two ports, we can redirect our efforts as necessary."

Canada and the European Union recently took action on food products from China and Vietnam that were contaminated with chloramphenicol, the FDA announcement said. Cianci said Louisiana health officials also have reported finding the drug in imported shrimp and crayfish.

Until recently the FDA has used a test that can detect as little as 5 parts per billion (ppb) of chloramphenicol in shrimp, officials said. Now the agency has modified its testing technique so it can detect 1 ppb, and further refinement will make it possible to detect 0.3 ppb, the agency said.

Chinese officials recently met with the FDA and said China banned the use of chloramphenicol in food animals and feed last March, according to the FDA announcement. Chinese officials also told the FDA that they are beginning to test shrimp, crayfish, and other food products intended for export to ensure they are free of chloramphenicol and other drug residues.

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