Safety Concerns Surround Imported Shrimp in U.S.; U.S. Rep. Castor Proposes Action

by Ella

Amidst a surplus of imported seafood causing stockpiles of shrimp to accumulate along the Gulf Coast docks, the shrimp industry, along with U.S. Representative Kathy Castor from Florida, are pushing for heightened consumption of domestic shrimp within the United States. Additionally, they advocate for increased federal funding to regulate imported shrimp to ensure consumer safety.

Representative Castor, a Democrat representing the Tampa Bay area, emphasizes the significance of seafood and fishing for Florida’s economy. She acknowledges the threats posed to this industry by factors such as rising Gulf waters’ temperatures and various stressors impacting the Gulf of Mexico’s fishery. To preserve the vitality of this sector, Castor stresses the need to address pollution and maintain safe and ecologically sound Gulf waters.


During a tour of Bama Sea Products, a seafood wholesaler distributor in South St. Petersburg, Castor highlighted her legislative proposition in Congress aimed at addressing issues within the shrimp industry.


John Williams, the executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, representing shrimp industry members spanning from Texas to North Carolina, conveyed the hardships faced by many industry stakeholders due to the surplus of shrimp and limited purchasing demand.


Florida’s seafood industry heavily relies on shrimping, contributing a dockside value of $64 million in 2021, as reported by the Florida Department of Agriculture. Paradoxically, the majority of shrimp consumed in the U.S. (approximately 90%) is imported from overseas sources, raising safety concerns.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics documented this figure in June 2014, and industry officials confirm the persistence of this statistic. In 2015, a Consumer Reports analysis of foreign shrimp packages purchased from various U.S. retailers found bacteria, including Vibrio and E. coli, in 16 percent of the packages. Yet, the majority of imported shrimp is not subjected to testing, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspecting less than 1 percent of foreign shrimp shipments.

Castor’s proposed legislation, known as the Laws Ensuring Safe Shrimp Act (LESS Act), seeks to rectify this situation by significantly increasing funding for the FDA to conduct inspections of foreign-produced shrimp. Notably, India, Ecuador, and Indonesia stand as the top three shrimp exporters to the U.S., with China contributing to the market inundation through farm-raised shrimp.

The legislation not only aims to bolster safety standards but also addresses the current surplus of shrimp in the retail market. It proposes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intensify its procurement of domestic shrimp for the federal agency’s national lunch program and other nutritional assistance initiatives.

The legislation also takes a stance against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices overseas, seeking to protect domestic commercial sectors from unfair competition and environmental risks.

Co-sponsored in the House by Louisiana Republican Garet Graves, the lawmakers aim to integrate the measure into the omnibus reauthorization of the farm bill during forthcoming negotiations when Congress reconvenes in Washington, D.C.

Representative Castor’s mission is clear: to ensure that American-produced domestic shrimp, renowned for its healthiness, cleanliness, and safety, takes precedence on consumers’ tables, countering the influx of foreign products into the market.



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