Monday, May 4, 2015

Shrimp and Food Safety

Consumer Reports has released their latest study on the safety of food sold in supermarkets. This time focusing on shrimp. Every year Americans eat about 1.14 billion pound of shrimp. In 2013, 1.07 billion pounds or 94% of the total shrimp sold in the U.S. was imported from foreign aquaculture operations. Consumer Report tested 342 packages of frozen shrimp that included 284 samples of raw shrimp and 58 samples of cooked shrimp purchased at groceries and warehouse stores in 16 cities in the U.S.

In 2014, frozen shrimp represented 78.8% of all imported shrimp and most of the wild U.S. shrimp sold so was the largest sample. Fresh never frozen fish was not sampled because according to Consumer reports they represent only a small percentage of consumer purchases. They included samples from countries where more than 5% of the shrimp originated and tested a proportionally larger sample of shrimp from the U.S. and from each of the four largest shrimp exporters: Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India. They made sure to test a large sample of wild shrimp because most wild shrimp found in stores were from from the U.S., Argentina (uncooked only), Mexico (uncooked only), and India (cooked only). All of the shrimp from Argentina were wild, and nearly all of the U.S. shrimp were also wild. All shrimp we purchased from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ecuador, China, and Bangladesh were farmed.
from Consumer Reports
 Consumer Reports found that overall, 60 % (or 171 of the samples) of uncooked shrimp were contaminated with one or more of the bacteria they tested for, and 15.5 % (9 sample) of the cooked shrimp contained the bacteria they tested for. As expected, uncooked samples were significantly more likely to have at least one of the bacteria we looked for than were cooked samples, however, cooked shrimp were still found to be contaminated. Overall, U.S. wild shrimp tended to be contaminated with fewer bacteria than other shrimp. In addition, they tested almost all of the bacteria isolated for antibiotic resistance. Overall, the likelihood of finding bacteria resistant to antibiotics also differed by production method and country of origin. Resistance to more than three classes of antibiotics was found for bacteria from farmed shrimp from Ecuador, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. The country and production methods that had the fewest bacteria with resistance (i.e., no resistance) included U.S. wild and farmed shrimp, farmed shrimp from China and Thailand, and wild shrimp from Argentina and Mexico.

Consumer Reports found that the samples least handled (shell on) typically had less S. aureus compared with samples that were likely to be the most handled. The bottom line is the best choices for safety and sustainability are wild shrimp from the U.S. identified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program as “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative.” Sixty percent of the U.S. wild shrimp were free of all the bacteria Consumer Reports tested for compared with only 20% to 30 % of the shrimp from Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia. Wild shrimp from other countries with a “Best Choice” rating from the Seafood Watch program are also a good choice. Buy shrimp that have the Marine Stewardship Council stamp to ensure sustainable practices.

If you live in the United States you have a 1 in 6 chance to get sick (each year) from food and yet the United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world. About 48 million get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from food borne diseases, according to 2011 estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still the United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011.  So far we've seen no progress in food safety..

To be honest, I do not eat or serve shrimp, ever; and shrimp was found to have less bacteria contamination than chicken breasts. But if you are going to eat shrimp the safest route is to buy raw shrimp with the shell on, handle it properly and cook it yourself to make sure that any bacteria is killed by proper cooking and handling. Note that the toxin produced by S. aureus is heat stable and not destroyed by cooking, so the best way to avoid that toxin is to always keep shrimp cold until cooking. Once cooked and hot, keep shrimp hot if they are to be stored longer than 2 hours to minimize the risk of toxin production.

Before cooking, keep the shrimp cold when peeling and deveining. By the way, the “vein” is just the poop tube. Look for the vein to make sure the fish is wild. Often, shrimp farmers stop feeding shrimp before harvesting so the vein empties. Frozen deveined shrimp may simply be farmed shrimp. You might as well go ahead and buy frozen raw shrimp (defrost in the refrigerator) since according to the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection the shrimp sold at many seafood counters was previously frozen.

Supermarkets and warehouse stores are required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to state whether shrimp is wild or farmed, but a 2014 study found that this is often inaccurate. The Oceana Organization performed DNA testing on shrimp and found that 30% percent of the 143 shrimp products tested from 111 grocery stores and restaurants were misrepresented. Oceana defined misrepresentation as products that were mislabeled (one species swapped out for another), misleading (e.g. farmed species labeled as “Gulf”), or mixed/mystery (e.g. commingling species among bagged shrimp). So, buyer beware.

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