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GAA on shrimp antibiotic findings: 'This is not a food safety issue'

International producers body recognizes seriousness of antibiotics issue, but points at wider picture.

The Global Aquaculture Alliance hit back at a CBC investigation describing "worrying" levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in imported shrimp saying that to present it as a food safety issue would be "misleading."

While it accepted that antimicrobial resistance was becoming "one of the world's biggest public health challenges," it also said that "it would be misleading to present this as a food-safety issue, because there is no indication that our food supply, and especially shrimp, is unsafe."

It also pointed out that GAA's Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) standards prohibit antibiotic use for disease prevention or growth but allow antibiotic use for treatment of disease under the supervision of animal health professionals.

In September, GAA’s multi-stakeholder Standards Oversight Committee (SOC) voted to strengthen its stance on antimicrobial use at the farm level in response to growing concern about AMR in humans. The BAP finfish and crustacean farm standards and salmon farm standards will prohibit the use of any antimicrobial that appears on the World Health Organization (WHO) list of critically important antimicrobials, effective at the end of 2020, for all species except tilapia, for which the ban is already in effect.

"A review of antibiotic stewardship programs indicates important progress, but we still have far to go," said GAA's statement, putting into context the wider picture of AMR in terms of inadequate reduction in human medical practice and other protein production.

In terrestrial animal agriculture, a 2018 US Food and Drug Administration report found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria exist on 79 percent of ground turkey, 71 percent of pork chops, 62 percent of ground beef and 36 percent of chicken breasts, wings and thighs. In the current sampling of shrimp in retail stores by CBC Marketplace, 18 percent of samples contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria, stated GAA.

"This is less than in terrestrial animal proteins, but indicative of the challenge that lies before us."

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