When the global shrimp industry first boomed in the 1970s and 80s, there were virtually no rules. Livestock were raised in high-density conditions, a natural breeding ground for disease.
Shrimp farmers looked to maximize profits by using prophylactic chemicals to boost yield, and antibiotics like chloramphenicol and nitrofurans – both known carcinogens – were commonly used to curb the risk of dying crops.
Eventually, widespread public concern mounted over the presence of harmful antibiotics in shrimp farming and, in 2002, the European Union threatened threaten a ban on shrimp imports from Asia.
Today, Thailand has officially banned the use of unsafe antibiotics in aquaculture and stepped up chemical testing. However, problems still exist. As recently as October 2010, shipments of shrimp from Thailand were turned away for containing nitrofurans.
But that doesn’t mean all contaminated seafood is being caught at the border.
While more than 70 percent of food in Canada is imported, only a maximum of 5 percent is actually inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). An internal audit published by the CFIA in 2010 recognized that their management of imported food safety has “deficiencies that represent multiple areas of risk exposure requiring significant improvements related to the governance, control, and risk management process.”