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India protests US rejection of shrimp for alleged antibiotic use

Analytical tests flag other compounds as banned antibiotics, producers say

by K.V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
March 19, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 12

09712-polcon1-shrimp.jpg
Credit: Shutterstock

India is raising concerns about the rejection of its shrimp shipments by the US Food and Drug Administration for alleged use of banned antibiotics such as chloramphenicol or nitrofurans to prevent disease outbreaks. The analytical tests to detect antibiotic residue are too stringent, Indian shrimp producers say.

The US FDA refused to allow 26 types of shrimp products from India into the US in January for banned antibiotics. It had refused 27 shipments in 2017 and 2018. The US is the largest market for Indian shrimp exporters and accounts for about one-third of seafood exports from India.

“The Indian shrimp farming industry is notorious for its failure to curtail the use of banned antibiotics in its aquaculture,” the Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA), a US-based group of shrimp fishermen and processors, says in a statement.

However, “the highly sensitive test protocols cannot differentiate if the residue detected is from the usage of antibiotics or background signal emanating from the extremely low level of antibiotics or compounds existing in the environment that mimic those antibiotics,” says D. Ramraj, president of the All India Shrimp Hatcheries Association. “Some of the metabolites in shrimp and crustacean shells are known to mimic antibiotics and therefore could give false results. This is well documented.”

Use of antibiotics in shrimp farming is banned in India, which requires that all shrimp feed be certified as free of antibiotics.

India’s Coastal Aquaculture Authority registers antibiotic-free aquaculture feed and feed supplements. “All shrimp hatchery operators and shrimp farmers are advised to use only these antibiotics-free inputs during shrimp farming,” says Madhusudana Rao, principal scientist at India’s Central Institute of Fisheries Technology.

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