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Hey there, fisherman, it's the heat: FDA cracks down hard on fraud in USA.

If you pump up scallops with water, overglaze shrimp and lobster, or slap too much breading on seafood products in the United States, you're going to be in big trouble with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Edward A. Steele, acting director Of the Program management staff for the Voluntary Seafood Program run by the FDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), laid down the law at the International Seafood Conference. A lot of the talk in the industry has been about seafood safety, but seafood scams seemed to be uppermost in his mind.

"Within the last two years, the agency sent over 1,000 warning letters to the U.S. industry concerning the illegal practice of overglazing "P and lobster tails and including the weight of the ice glaze in the net weight statement," Steele for-instanced. "This year we are aggressively taking action against firms that have chosen to ignore this warning. FDA is committed to protect the consumer from paying lobster prices for frozen water."

That's just the beginning, he said. Another alleged racket has to do with scallops, both domestic and imported, that are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) to prevent drip loss. Although the use of STP is safe, Steele said, it is a sorry practice - what the chemical does is make scallops and other seafood swell up with excess water and thus appear larger and weightier than they actually are. Pending completion of an FDA study on whether STP is actually good for anything besides preventing drip loss, products so treated will have to be labeled with the percentage of excess water - if they contain more than 84% water (the maximum for untreated scallops is deemed to be 79%), they won't be allowed on the market.

"Another fraudulent practice we are pursuing is the overbreading of shrimp, fish fillets, fish sticks and fish portions," Steele said. "A survey by the State of Connecticut revealed that most breaded shrimp samples included in their study failed to meet the 50% fish flesh requirement of the FDA'S standard of identity. This finding is leading us to conduct follow up surveys of our own. The data we collect will help us to take action against overbreaded product.

Because 60% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, he went on, the FDA is determined to make sure that imports conform to the same standard as domestic products. Civil and criminal action will be taken against importers and foreign exporters alike. Short-term probes will be focused on individual Products, and the FDA will work more closely with state agencies. Certification agreements with ex- porting countries, which haven't always worked out too well, are being re-evaluated: such agreements will now be with countries that already have effective quality control in place, leaving the FDA to focus its inspection efforts on products from problem countries.

Actual safety, as opposed to fraud problems, aren't always industry's fault. A cholera outbreak in 1991, for example, was traced to contaminated seafood smuggled in aboard an airliner from South America, rather than imported through regular channels. Cholera germs in some fish and shellfish samples found in the Southeast turned out to have come from the ship's bilge, and ships are now being asked to exchange their ballast on the high sea before making port. Yet another case, involving histamine poisoning, was traced to imported fresh tuna, mostly from Ecuador. The tuna industry there was advised to maintain proper temperatures during harvest to prevent the formation of histamine.
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Title Annotation:Food and Drug Administration
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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