Five U.S. lawmakers have asked the Government Accountability Office to further investigate what they say are “serious problems with the food safety system for imported seafood.” Approximately 94 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, they lawmakers said, and about half of imports are farm-raised. Because of the high rate of bacterial infection in farm-raised seafood, overseas producers often use antimicrobial agents that in many instances are banned for use in food-producing animals in the U.S.
The lawmakers are therefore asking the GAO to address the following issues.
- the criteria the Food and Drug Administration uses in developing import alerts for food products and how long it takes on average for the FDA to put a product, producer, country, or region on an import alert once a problem has been identified
- how the FDA determines whether to remove a company, country, or region from an import alert and the extent to which it coordinates with other agencies to help inform its decisions on adding companies to or removing them from import alerts
- how the FDA works with other agencies to ensure that food is not rerouted to avoid import alerts and import duties
- how the FDA measures the effectiveness of its import alerts and the extent to which it has assessed the results
- the extent to which other mechanisms help ensure the safety of imported food
- the criteria the FDA uses to determine risk for imported seafood and the extent to which those criteria ensure comparable safety for imported and domestic food
- the number of warning letters the FDA has issued to foreign seafood facilities since 2011 and the average length of time it takes to close out such letters
- the number of regulatory actions (e.g., import refusals, seizures, injunctions, administrative detentions) the FDA has issued to foreign seafood facilities since 2011