February 13, 2001
For more information:
GAO Gives Failing Grade to FDA Seafood HACCP Program|
WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released a report by the General Accounting
Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, that identified huge gaps in the Food and Drug
Administrations (FDA) seafood-safety program. According to GAO:
- FDA exempted huge segments of the seafood industry from regulation. Most processing that
occurs on board a ship is not covered. Warehouses and some processors representing
about 30% of the total industry are exempted. And only 1 to 3% of imported seafood is
being checked at the border.
- There are numerous seafood hazards not being adequately covered under the HACCP (or
hazard control) plans. For example, FDA does not inspect for well-known seafood
hazards, like methylmercury in large ocean-dwelling fish. In addition, over 50% of the
seafood industry did not have adequate HACCP plans in place.
- FDA doesnt require seafood plants to register with the agency, so they dont know where to
send their inspectors. The FDA identifies seafood firms to inspect by checking the Yellow
Pages, newspaper and magazines, trade periodicals, and consumer complaints.
- FDA is inspecting seafood processors only once every one or two years, and when they find
violations, it takes FDA months to inform the processors.
- FDA failed to use microbial testing to evaluate the effectiveness of its HACCP program and
to improve processing in individual plants.
Seafood can be contaminated with deadly bacteria, natural toxins and industrial chemicals,
any of which can sicken consumers, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director of the
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Our research has documented over the last 10
years, seafood has been linked to roughly a quarter of all food poisoning outbreaks, where the food
source is known. The GAO report confirms that FDAs seafood program is riddled with
deficiencies, woefully underfunded, and provides no assurance of safety for consumers.