Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Robert Odom announced on Monday that nearly 350 tons (700,000 pounds) of Vietnamese seafood has been taken off the market since Friday and remain must remain frozen until it can be analyzed for an antibiotic that is not allowed in food.
Inspectors are checking cold storage facilities, seafood markets, restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail establishments, looking for any basa catfish, crab meat, and any other seafood products from Vietnam.
Odom stopped the sale of all seafood from Vietnam on Friday after the FDA found the antibiotic fluoroquinolones in imported basa catfish. The catfish were bought in Louisiana under the LA Fish Co. label.
Such antibiotics are sometimes added to seafood in other countries and are used to treat tuberculosis, pneumonia and other infections in people. The antibiotics will not cause illness but are not allowed in United States, Canadian, and European food because germs could become resistant to them.
Odom stated in a news release: "We’re going from location to location making sure we find it all. We’re not trying to disrupt business or treat anyone unfairly, we are enforcing the law. There is a reason the FDA has a zero-tolerance for this antibiotic and it’s to protect you and me and our children and grandchildren."
Only last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a final decision to no longer allow distribution or use of the antimicrobial drug enrofloxacin (Baytril) for the purpose of treating bacterial infections in poultry.
This animal drug belongs to a class of drugs known as fluoroquinolones and is marketed under the name Baytril by Bayer Corporation. The drug is in the same “family” as Cipro, the widely used human antibiotic.
The FDA finally made a decision which many infectious disease experts had been calling for and directed its Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) to begin proceedings to withdraw use of this animal drug in poultry.
The FDA now acknowledges scientific data shows that the use of enrofloxacin in poultry caused resistance to emerge in Campylobacter, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness. Chickens and turkeys normally harbor Campylobacter in their digestive tracts without causing poultry to become ill.
Enrofloxacin does not completely eliminate Campylobacter from the birds’ intestinal tracts, and those Campylobacter bacteria that survive are resistant to fluoroquinolone drugs. These resistant bacteria multiply in the digestive tracts of poultry and persist and spread through transportation and slaughter, and are found on chicken carcasses in slaughter plants and retail poultry meats.
Campylobacter bacteria are a significant cause of foodborne illness in the U.S. Antimicrobial treatment is recommended for people with severe illness as well as the very young, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions.
Complications of such infections can include reactive arthritis and, more rarely, blood stream infections. Early treatment can mitigate symptoms and may decrease the risk of complications.
Fluoroquinolones used in humans are ineffective if used to treat Campylobacter infections that are resistant to them. This failure can significantly prolong the duration of the infections and may increase the risk of complications. The proportion of Campylobacter infections that are resistant to fluoroquinolones has increased significantly since the use of enrofloxacin in poultry was approved in the U.S.
Bayer Corporation has been given 60 days to appeal the withdrawal. The final order withdrawing approval of the antimicrobial drug enrofloxacin for the purpose of treating bacterial infections in poultry will become effective on September 12, 2005.
The Final Decision can be found at www.fda.gov/oc/antimicrobial/baytril.pdf.
This ruling is seen as a step forward in the battle to stem the tide of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are rapidly becoming a public health crisis. Critics of the FDA’s inactivity on the matter have praised this first, decisive measure to deal with the problem.
Thus, the recall of the seafood from Vietnam, which may have been treated with this very same antibiotic, is merely an extension of last month’s decision by the FDA. "If we can’t use these substances in U.S. food production, then countries we do business with shouldn’t use them either. We all have to abide by the same rules," Odom said.