Oct 15, 2012 by MARCO TORRES
Approved Seafood Imported To Canada and U.S Raised on Pig Feces
At Ngoc Sinh Seafoods Trading & Processing Export Enterprise, a seafood exporter on Vietnam’s southern coast that ships to Canada and US geographic markets--fish and seafood are obtained from farmers who use feces from hundreds of pigs and geese. At the plant itself there’s trash on the floor, and flies crawl over baskets of processed shrimp stacked in an unchilled room.
The plant is located in Ca Mau, Vietnam. Shrimp headed for western markets are packed in dirty plastic tubs. They're covered 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 approximately 125 million pounds of shrimp a year between the U.S and Canada.
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.
Many species of farmed fish and shellfish of major brand names such as Highliner and grown in Vietnam and then shipped to North America.
Canadian law requires High Liner -- and all other seafood companies -- to indicate Product of Canada based on how the seafood is processed regardless of origin. The country of origin is defined as the country where the product has had value added, such as breading, battered, or saucing fish and shellfish, and where it is packaged.
“We are trying to meet international standards,” Thanh says.
SGS spokeswoman Jennifer Buckley says her company has no record of auditing Ngoc Sinh.
Currently, the company runs a 150 hectare whiteleg shrimp farm in Ninh Thuan and 70 hectare Pangasius farm in An Giang. The company’s land tenants have the rights to select the feed, chemical and drug suppliers for their farms independent of any regulations. They list less than 10 People on their company profile as employees.
Global trade conglomerates such as Alibaba.com also list Nboc Sinh Seafoods as a unverified member.
At 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.
“The manure the Chinese use to feed fish is frequently contaminated with microbes like salmonella,” says Doyle, who has studied foodborne diseases in China.
On 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 US companies.
Yang 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.
“Many 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.
Texas Tech University researchers have recently found evidence of antibiotics -- one a suspected human carcinogen -- after testing farm-raised shrimp samples of international origin in imported seafood going directly to grocery store shelves.
Ron Kendall, director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech, said researchers tested only the muscle tissues consumed by people. When concluded, they found evidence of three antibiotics in 30 samples tested.
Though the sample sizes were small, he said finding antibiotic residues at all is cause for concern. Todd Anderson, a professor of environmental toxicology, and instrument manager QingSong Cai conducted the shrimp analyses.
"We estimate that at least 80% of all shrimp imported to grocery retailers comes from farmed sources with similar practices," said Graham Beaton, a head toxicologist and food inspector. "We know that 80% of all farmed shrimp comes from Asia, mostly from Thailand and China who are well known for producing 'dirty shrimp'." We can now add Vietnam to the mix.
One specific sodium salt ingredient in more than 90% of packaged shrimp and seafood is clearly something of great concern, especially since it's also used in detergents, antifreeze and flame retardants.
Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP) is an inorganic compound mostly used for preserving frozen meat and seafood products. Used in trace amounts, STPP preserves the water content inside the flesh.
Food and safety specialist Ivan Mandadi stated, "it's time we all started boycotting seafood from many asian countries who refuse to clean up their exports...Canada and U.S. food inspection agencies are simply not doing their job."
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.