October 22, 2018
UK consumers have considered imported farmed shrimp as having inferior quality, but it appears their assumption has no basis.
A new research conducted by scientists from the University of Stirling in Scotland has found that imported shrimp is as safe as any other seafood product.
Experts used European Union data to perform a risk assessment on shrimp imports, which were found to have become much safer to consume in recent years. The findings of the research are published in the Aquaculture journal.
Dr Richard Newton, of Stirling's Institute of Aquaculture, said that the negative reputation of farmed shrimp stemmed from claims that tropical farmed shrimp were grown in polluted water and treated with large quantities of chemicals.
"We hypothesised that we could perform a risk assessment of shrimp imports which would allow us to calculate the amount that an average adult would need to consume to surpass the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for any particular harmful substance", he said.
Acceptable daily intake for antimicrobials
"Our study found that consumers would need to eat more than 300 grammes of shrimp per day to exceed the acceptable daily intake for antimicrobials".
Dr Newton and the team analysed 18 years of data from the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), which contains information on food and feed imports that have been found to contain banned or excessive quantities of substances, and subsequently removed from the market.
Dr. Newton and Prof. Dave Little, also of Stirling's Institute of Aquaculture, teamed up with colleagues at Shanghai Ocean University in analysing 18 years of data from the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), which contains information on food and feed imports that have been found to contain banned or excessive quantities of substances, and subsequently removed from the market.
"Based on the information in the RASFF database covering 1998 to 2015, our study found that consumers would need to eat more than 300g of shrimp per day to exceed the ADI for antimicrobials," Dr Newton said.
The scientists also concluded that the ADI is likely to be "much higher" than the 300g calculated because the RASFF database only contained information on contaminated shrimp and not those available to consumers.
Number of alerts drops
"This means that imported farmed shrimp are no less safe than any other seafood product", Newton explained:
Likewise, the research found that over the 18-year period, the number of alerts dropped significantly despite shrimp imports increasing. This means that shrimp have become much safer to consumer as exporting countries meet the safety demands of importers more effectively, the researchers explained.
The research also found media, particularly social media or the internet, to have reinforced the reputation of imported shrimp as being of low quality. The researchers compared the RASFF data with coverage on shrimps that appeared in mainstream media over the same period—and found that it tracked closely with the number of alerts, which are now a fraction of what they were in 2002, when he numbers peaked, in relation to large numbers of consignments contaminated with antimicrobials.
However, the research team found that information available on the internet continued the negative narrative, which is based on practices mostly phased out and does not reflect improvements that have been made in the industry. It noted that many websites promoted the consumption of local, wild-caught species in favour of imports despite some evidence showing that wild shrimp can also be contaminated with various harmful substances, and have ethical and environmental impact issues.