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April 26, 2007   Email to Friend 

Commissioner Sparks issues stop-sale of fish found to contain banned chemcials
Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
April 26, 2007

From left, Alabama Farmers Federation State Catfish Committee Chairman Butch Wilson of Dallas County, Joe Basile, Chemist III for the Food & Drug Lab, and Commissioner Ron Sparks at a press conference called by Sparks Wednesday.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Nearly a half million pounds of imported fish is sitting idle in Alabama warehouses because testing shows it contains chemicals banned in the United States. Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks said testing done by his department discovered the tainted fish, and he issued a "stop-sale order" on the fish Wednesday.

Samples from nine different food storage warehouses in Alabama were taken between Feb. 13 and March 29, Sparks said. The fish were imported from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Thailand and Vietnam.

The two types of fish that were tested include catfish and a farm-raised, basa-type fish from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Based on the results analysis of 33 samples, Sparks issued the stop-sale order for all catfish from China. Sparks said farm-raised, basa-type fish products from China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are being held for further testing.

Of the 20 samples of catfish from China, 14 tested positive for fluoroquinolones, an antibiotic banned for use in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The samples represent 214,260 pounds of catfish along with nearly 300,000 additional pounds of fish suspended pending analysis.

Thirteen samples of basa-type fish from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia were tested and five of those samples were positive for fluoroquinolones. The five positive samples were from Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Lance Hester, program director for the Food Safety Division and division director for Ag Compliance at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, said the antibiotics found in the fish were administered intentionally and are typically given to prevent or treat diseases found in fish. Sparks said it is possible that some of the tainted fish has entered the food chain either in grocery stores or restaurants.

"Food safety is on the mind of every housewife and individual in the United States right now," Sparks said. "The way to buy a safe product is to buy an Alabama product. Our farmers raise our food at higher and safer standards than foreign countries. We are continuing to find foreign seafood and catfish coming into Alabama with chemicals banned in the United States, and we're not going to stand for it. Removing nearly a half million pounds of their product sends a clear message that we won't tolerate it."

Butch Wilson, a catfish producer from Dallas County and chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation's State Catfish Committee, was at a press conference called Wednesday by Sparks. Wilson said he appreciates Sparks' efforts to keep America's food supply safe.

"Our farmers do a great job of providing a safe food supply for our country," Wilson said. "When these other countries sell here, they have to meet our standards. We appreciate the commissioner holding them to the same safe standards we have to meet."

About 18 months ago, Sparks issued a stop-sale order of seafood imported from Vietnam because of banned chemicals found in samples taken by his department. He said results from the recent tests would be shared with agriculture commissioners from other states as well as FDA officials and the Department of Public Health.

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