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Yuck: Our Seafood Is Loaded with Unspeakably Gross Pollutants

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page.

When you tuck into a delicious seafood dish, is it possible that the fish you are eating once ate human poop? Surprisingly, that might be the case. A look at the U.S. seafood supply reveals that some of our most popular seafood treats might come to us from unsanitary and disgusting operations in other countries. And the federal government does not necessarily stop it from making its way to your dinner plate, either.

These days, 91 percent of U.S. seafood is imported, and half of that is farmed (the other half is wild-caught). Our top suppliers include China, Thailand, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Ecuador, and Vietnam. And the production systems some of these countries use would make your stomach turn.

Michael Doyle, regents professor and director at the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, described tilapia production in China, saying, "The farmers there grow the fish in ponds that are maybe one to two acres in size. That's their livelihood. And they use excessive antibiotics." China is a leading supplier of tilapia to the U.S.

"It's not just antibiotic residues on the seafood. It's also antibiotic-resistant microbes that come with the fish or the shrimp," he continued. "A primary source of salmonella is the raw manure that is used to feed the shrimp and fish. Many of these farmers have poultry -- maybe chickens, maybe geese, maybe ducks. The fecal waste of these animals is fed directly into these ponds, which is the source of nutrients for these fish and shrimp  Poultry can harbor salmonella... that's shed in the feces. And many of these little farms have the family outhouse just feed directly into the ponds." 

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