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Dangerous Antibiotics in Imported Fish

This was found in samples of shrimp purchased in New York. Researchers have found evidence of antibiotics--one of them a suspected human carcinogen--in seafood imported into the United States and purchased from grocery store shelves. The antibiotic nitrofuranzone, a probable carcinogen, was found in two of the samples--one from a farm in India and the other from Thailand. Both samples were 28 and 29 times higher than the amount allowed by the FDA.

Though the sample sizes were small, finding antibiotic residues at all is cause for concern. Researcher Ron Kendall says, “Finding this particular antibiotic is of great interest, especially considering someone could have been eating an item that would have been banned. Nitrofuranzone is a genotoxic substance. It can affect the DNA of cells and result in genetic toxicity that can possibly result in cancer. You don’t want to ingest it. That’s why the FDA has adopted a zero tolerance stance with it.”

The antibiotic chloramphenicol showed up in one sample at 150 times the current FDA required detection limits on prohibited antimicrobial agents in seafood. Trace amounts of enrofloxacin showed up in a sample purchased from a store in Washington, DC. Kendall says, "With chloramphenicol, 45 parts per billion is considerably higher than the .3 parts per billion. It's a very powerful, broad spectrum antibiotic. There is a reason why the US FDA and other countries have set a very low tolerance for this product. You shouldn't be consuming this."

Other fish samples were purchased from grocery stores in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

"These findings were pretty surprising to me,” Kendall says. "Considering someone may walk in to a grocery store to buy shrimp to eat, I think that's worth further investigation, and more extensive testing should be done. This was a grab-bag sampling, and we reported what we saw. I don't know yet if it’s a greater problem or a lesser problem, but it should be looked into at this point."

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