Most of us assume that by the time food arrives at the grocery store, it’s been checked for any chemicals that might harm us. That’s not necessarily the case: food manufacturers and federal employees test for some known culprits in some foods, but the search isn’t exhaustive, especially when it comes to imported items. Recently, scientists working with ABC News checked to see whether imported farmed shrimp bought from grocery stores had any potentially dangerous antibiotic residue, left over from the antibiotic-filled ponds in which they are raised. It turns out, a few of them did.
Out of 30 samples taken from grocery stores around the US, 3 turned up positive on tests for antibiotics that are banned from food for health reasons. Two of the samples, one imported from Thailand and one from India, had levels of carcinogenic antibiotic nitrofuranzone that were nearly 30 times higher than the amount allowed by the FDA. The other antibiotics the team discovered were enroflaxin, part of a class of compounds that can cause severe reactions in people and promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, and chloramphenicol, an antibiotic that is also a suspected carcinogen.
Mutated shrimp from Al Jazeera’s video report
Al Jazeera‘s report on seafood in the Gulf Coast reads like a horror story: eyeless shrimp, fish with oozing sores, clawless crabs. Unfortunately these deformities are very real and disturbingly common two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Chemical dispersants used by BP to “clean up” the oil spill are the likely cause.
Deformities happen even in ordinary circumstances, but scientists and fishers are seeing them in unprecedented scales in Gulf marine life. For example, half the shrimp caught in a Louisiana bay lacked eye sockets, according to fishers interviewed by journalist Dahr Jamail.
“Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico],” [commercial fisher Tracy Kuhn] added, “They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes … they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.
Perhaps the most troubling line in the whole article is this: “Questions raised by Al Jazeera’s investigation remain largely unanswered.” When Jamail went knocking on doors at government and corporate offices, nobody wanted to talk. One scientist he interviews mentions the difficulty in getting funds to study the oil spill’s environmental impact. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill may be rapidly fading in our memories, but its impact on the ocean is not.
Image via Al Jazeera English