By Tom SchallerAssociated PressIn a world where more than half of all seafood is now imported, you might be surprised to learn that many products don’t meet the stringent requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In fact, most shrimp imported from foreign countries is far worse than what’s actually on store shelves.
In the past year, a slew of products that are labeled “salmon” or “chicken” or even “chinese” have caught fire on social media and been criticized by U.N. experts for being poorly sanitized and often lacking the correct sealant.
The problem is not limited to seafood products.
Many of our other foods are also getting blamed for poor sanitary standards, but not by the U: the FDA, for example, says about 85 percent of food and beverages are safe to consume, yet almost 90 percent of our food comes from countries that are not regulated by the agency.
What’s more, we’ve been duped into thinking our food is safe, according to the UNAIDS, a U.K.-based organization that works to promote food safety.
“When it comes to food safety, there are two sides to every story, and that’s not necessarily true,” says Dr. Daniel O’Connell, a senior scientist at UNAIDs.
O’Connell’s organization is dedicated to helping consumers make informed decisions about food.
The organization, along with other experts and organizations, recently released a report titled “Food Safety: Are You Worried About Seafood Safety?”
It outlines several concerns about seafood, including:The FDA says the problem is a product is not properly sanitized before it’s packaged or sold.
Some seafood products, like shrimp and oysters, are often packaged in bags with only a small amount of salt and a lot of water.
“That can lead to a lot more salt and water in the package,” O’Connor says.
This salt and other water can leach into food and cause problems.
Oral fish can contain salmonella, and this can lead a person to develop a foodborne illness like food poisoning.
“Some people can’t get a good sealant because of salmonellosis,” O-Connell says.
“Salmonella is a major concern for people who eat raw fish because salmonelly contamination is not easily controlled,” says Tom Scholl, director of the Food Safety Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
In other words, if you’re concerned about salmonele contamination in your seafood, it’s best to avoid eating it.
“The main point is you need to be really, really careful with the salt,” Scholl says.
If you’re buying from a Chinese restaurant, be sure to ask about salinity levels before buying.
In China, the quality of their shrimp can be as high as 70 percent salt, according an NPR investigation.
The FDA warns about salting before packaging your food.
Scholl recommends using a plastic bag, instead of a plastic wrap, and putting your food in the fridge, where salinity is controlled.
The plastic wrap will also keep the shrimp out of the air and out of your hands.
“The main thing is to make sure you get your food as close to the sealant as possible,” Schallers says.
Schallers points out that the FDA recommends not touching your food while the seal is being applied, but this can be challenging.
“There’s a lot about this that you don’t have to do, but you have to be aware of,” he says.
In other words: if you buy a fish product, don’t be afraid to ask the chef if the fish is kosher.
“You’re not buying something that you know will be tainted with something,” SchALLER says.
Food safety experts say if you’ve already purchased the product, you should be okay with the quality.
“A lot of times when consumers buy seafood, they’re buying it for their family or friends,” says O’Bryan.
“But if they’re going to buy it at a restaurant, you need it to be clean and sterile.”
If you’ve purchased the fish, it is recommended to refrigerate the product and remove it from the fridge.
But don’t refrigerate if the product has not been properly washed.
“If you have the proper sealant, you’ll be fine,” Schalla says.
“Most people are very careful about their seafood.”
Schaller says the FDA has an open data policy for seafood, and he urges consumers to report problems to the agency if they experience problems.
“Food safety is not just about what’s on the label,” Schell says.