Shrimp has surpassed other types of fish as Americans' favorite seafood. But a new analysis by Consumer Reports
finds up to 60 percent of shrimp sold in the U.S. may contain harmful bacteria — including the superbug MRSA and E. coli.
scientists tested 342 packages of frozen shrimp — 284 raw, 58 cooked — purchased at stores around the country.
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Among the findings:
- Bacterial residues were found on more than half the raw samples (60 percent) tested — including salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
- In seven raw shrimp samples, scientists detected the antibiotic-resistant superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause dangerous infections.
- Illegal antibiotic residues were present on 11 samples.
- The fish packages were purchased at Albertsons, Costco, Fry’s Marketplace, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Walmart in 27 cities across the U.S.
The magazine’s editors noted that every American eats an average of almost four pounds or shrimp per year, making it more popular than tuna. That’s about three times more shrimp than Americans consumed in the 1970s.
But our love of shrimp has a down side. About 94 percent of the U.S. shrimp supply is imported from countries such as India, Indonesia, and Thailand. Most comes from fish farms, where it is grown in huge industrial tanks or shallow, man-made ponds where they’re fed commercial pellets, sometimes containing antibiotics to ward off disease.
If the farms aren’t carefully managed, fecal matter, chemicals, and excess food can build up and decay — causing contamination of the shrimp.
“Bacteria and algae can begin to grow and disease can set in, prompting farmers to use drugs and other chemicals that can remain on the shrimp and seep into the surrounding environment,” said Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.
Grocery store labels — such as “natural” or “wild” can be confusing, meaningless, or deceptive — because of gaps in regulation, she argues. Sellers may not know or disclose the origins of the shrimp they offer and can obscure the fact that some expensive varieties aren’t necessarily fresher or more flavorful.
is calling on the federal government to make shrimp safer for American consumers.
In the meantime, Consumer Reports
recommends buying farmed shrimp raised without chemicals, including antibiotics that come from large outdoor ponds that mimic their natural habitat or in tanks that constantly filter and recycle water and waste.
Consumers should buy shrimp carrying the “Marine Stewardship Council” logo or checking seafoodwatch.org and look for shrimp listed as a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative.”
The organization also suggests following their safe-prep rules, which include cooking shrimp well to kill any residual bacteria, and treat seafood like hamburger, chicken, or other foods that can cause foodborne illnesses if improperly handled, prepared, and cooked.
“Even though most bacteria on shrimp would be killed during the cooking process, our test results raise real questions about how shrimp is raised, processed, and regulated,” Rangan said.
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