Seafood safety specialists from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the University of Maryland Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) are carrying out a training programme for 10 Bangladeshi scientists focussing on the controlled production of seafood. – much of which is exported to the US and Europe.
The emphasis of the training, which is being carried out this month, is on hazards associated with shrimp production and on FDA regulations regarding the safety of seafood imports.
The safety of shrimp imports from Bangladesh is also a major concern of European Union regulators, who recently highlighted the continued presence of the carcinogen nitrofuran in shrimps from the Asian nation.
In its yearly food safety round up on the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), the European Commission said the number of notifications of nitrofuran in crustaceans in 2009 had seen a “sharp increase”. Bangladesh – with around 50 notifications was the major culprit – followed by India and then Sri Lanka.
“All crustacean consignments from Bangladesh presented for import into the EU must be analysed at origin for nitrofurans and some other substances,” said the report. “From October 2009, the same measure applies to India.”
Over the past 20 years, the aquaculture industry has grown by more than 11 per cent each year. It is now the fastest-growing segment of agriculture worldwide, accounting for 52 per cent of all fish produced, said the FDA.
International food safety conference
The US agency also announced it is to host a food safety conference this week for regulators from throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
The gathering, to be held in Cairo from 22-24 September, aims to familiarise regulators with food safety systems in the US, Middle East and North Africa. Company registration, inspection, surveillance and risk assessment will be among the areas covered.
"Through venues such as this and by expanding our presence in the region, we can begin the process of understanding other systems, harmonizing standards, and sharing scientific data and emerging technologies, which will ultimately benefit the global food supply," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
FDA's deputy commissioner for international programs Murray Lumpkin, described the initiative as “a major step toward greater engagement with our Middle East and North Africa counterparts”.