Miss. Senator Told New Shrimp Import Inspection Program Developing Better Ways to Keep Tainted Foreign Shrimp Out

072022 FDA Shrimp 
VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Addresses Shrimp Imports & FDA Inspection Efforts.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today asked federal officials to explain how they are responding to concerns among Mississippi shrimpers and processors that its inspections of imported shrimp fail to adequately screen products that don’t meet U.S. health and safety standards.

Hyde-Smith serves on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee that conducted a hearing titled, “Food Safety and the Food and Drug Administration” (FDA).  The Mississippi Senator discussed the FDA’s responsibility to inspect shrimp imports, which represent a significant challenge to the shrimp industry in Mississippi and other states.

“Mississippi, we’re a big shrimping state.  It’s very important to Mississippi,” Hyde-Smith said.  “Unfortunately, our shrimp industry is forced to compete with a lot of ever-growing volumes of the imported shrimp, so much of which is dumped on our market and subsidized by foreign governments.”

“It’s no secret that drugs not approved for use in the United States are often used in foreign aquaculture operations, and that the residues of some of these drugs may lead to cancer or allergic reactions when consumed by humans because of the carcinogens found there,” the Senator added.

Hyde-Smith asked FDA witnesses for an update on the regulatory partnership pilot program funded through a $6.0 million appropriation in FY2021 to improve the agency’s inspection and regulation of imported shrimp.  A 2017 Government Accountability Office report determined the FDA in FY2015 tested only 0.1 percent of roughly 1 million seafood entry lines for drugs of concern to the FDA.

Frank Yiannas, M.P.H., FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, discussed a pilot program geared toward stopping adulterated foreign shrimp imports from entering the United States.  The program, which involves partnerships with leading shrimp exporters India, Ecuador, and Indonesia, is focused on data sharing, predictive analytics, training, and new technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI).

“We understand the American consumers want their food and shrimp to be safe regardless of where it comes from.  We’re working on that and the pilot has been very successful,” Yiannas said.

“Every single line of shrimp import that comes in the United States gets screened by the FDA through something called the ‘predicts system,’ and we’re trying to leverage something in this pilot work that we started earlier on a seafood AI pilot,” Yiannas continued.  “Early results are very promising.  We’re on the third round of piloting and the results suggest we might dramatically increase our ability to find which seafood shipments are violative.”

Hyde-Smith praised the Mississippi shrimp industry, which harvests and processes as much as 10 million pounds of shrimp a year, while noting that more than 90 percent of the shrimp consumed by Americans annually is imported.  With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Hyde-Smith was part of a successful effort to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase Gulf shrimp for distribution to food banks and other nonprofit nutrition programs.