A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study has criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) for their failure to ensure that imported seafood does not contain unsafe levels of antibiotic or other drug residues. According to the GAO, about 90 percent of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported, and about half of imported seafood is raised on fish farms where producers treat fish to prevent infections and foodborne illnesses.

GAO makes five main recommendations: (i) FDA should pursue agreements with exporting countries to test for “drugs of concern” and residue levels; (ii) FSIS should conduct onsite audits of fish farms instead of limiting visits to government offices, commercial food processing facilities and food testing labs; (iii) FSIS should require exporting countries to include residue-monitoring plans in equivalence determinations; (iv) FDA and FSIS should collaborate to develop residue testing methods and maximum levels for imported seafood; and (v) FDA and FSIS should collaborate on testing methods and levels for imported catfish.

According to a GAO highlight report, FDA and FSIS agreed or partially agreed with some of the recommendations, although FSIS argues that it already addresses one; GAO “disagrees and believes the recommendations should be implemented.”