Vietnamese shrimp exports under more toxic scrutiny

By    October 18, 2016 | 04:15 am PT
Vietnamese shrimp exports under more toxic scrutiny
Vietnam earned $6.6 billion from exporting seafood last year, according to VASEP. Photo by VGP.
Shipments are being sent back due to high levels of antibiotics and heavy metals.

South Korea is the latest foreign market to strengthen inspections for banned antibiotics in shipments of shrimp from Vietnam.

This is not the first time South Korea has issued warnings about frozen shrimp shipped from Vietnam for violating food hygiene and safety standards. In 2013, South Korean food safety authorities ordered heightened inspections of shrimp imported from Vietnam for a year to ensure that they were not contaminated with ethoxyquin residue, a synthetic antioxidant that is not approved for use as a direct food additive fit for human consumption.

Similar warnings from other key export markets such as Japan have become more frequent.

The past 30 percent of shipments of shrimp exported from Vietnam to Japan have been subject to checks for traces of a variety of antibiotics, including chloramphenical, an antibiotic sometimes used by Vietnamese shrimp farmers to kill bacteria and promote growth in their profitable crops.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), most of Vietnam’s largest export markets are looking closely at Vietnamese shrimp for antibiotic residue above the permitted levels.

VASEP has also asked local seafood exporters to tighten quality checks on their exports after the European Union returned 11 shipments to Vietnam in the past nine months due to high levels of heavy metals.

The European Commission Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed said the shipments were contaminated with mercury and cadmium.

The number of shipments rejected by the E.U. from January to September was 2.2 times higher than the whole of 2015, said the Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department, adding that exporters must monitor seafood from the four central provinces affected by the toxic discharge caused by Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group in April.

Vietnamese trade commissions in the E.U., Japan, and the United States have received more warnings about seafood shipments containing antibiotic and chemical residues exceeding the permitted level this year.

Australia, which has been Vietnam’s largest shrimp importer in the past five years, has imposed a rule that requires every seafood shipment from Vietnam to be checked for biological toxins and bacteria.

Last year, Vietnam earned $6.6 billion from seafood exports.

This year, Vietnam has a target to export $8 billion worth of seafood products, but that will be tough to reach as export revenue in the first eight months reached only $4 billion, according to VASEP.

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