Health Impacts of Eating Farm-Raised Shrimp | Food & Water Watch
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Jennifer Neylon

Health Impacts of Eating Farm-Raised Shrimp

There currently are no organic standards for seafood , either farm-raised or wild. The United States Department of Agriculture is currently developing organic standards for farm raised fish, which should be complete by mid 2007. Until then, consumers may be fooled by industry labeling of “sustainable” seafood. The industry has developed their own standards, which no one is accountable to and is completely not enforced. California recently passed a bill to prohibit the labeling of seafood as organic until the relevant state or federal agency develops standards that are reviewed by the public.

In coastal shrimp farms, most of which are in tropical areas of the world, such as Ecuador and Thailand – disease can run amuck. The industry‚ solution is to dump tons of antibiotics to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. One widely used antibiotic, chloramphenicol, is banned in shrimp farming in the U.S. but is still used by many countries that export shrimp to the U.S. Chloramphenicol has been linked to human aplastic anemia (a lethal blood disorder), neurological reactions and other health problems. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for ensuring food safety in the U.S., only inspects 1-2% of all seafood that comes across our borders; therefore, consumers may be eating these banned chemicals in their shrimp.

Studies indicate that farm-raised fish contain higher levels of chemical pollutants than wild fish, including PCBs, which are known carcinogens. This is due to higher concentrations in the fish feed. Antibiotics are also a problem with farm-raised fish, directly affecting consumers by developing super strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, making diseases less treatable, and perpetuates the cycle of increased antibiotic use.

Many people are aware of mercury in long-lived wild fish. However, there are also risks associated with eating farmed fish. To read more, please see our mercury and fish farms fact sheet.