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FDA inspectors checking imported sardines and taking samples to be analysed. (Photo: FDA)

NFI condemns MSNBC article on imported seafood

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Friday, October 07, 2011, 07:30 (GMT + 9)

Gavin Gibbons, media relations director of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) has accused MSNBC.com of “harnessing the power of the ever under-paid and often under-prepared student journalists to bulk up its offerings.”

Gavin Gibbons' words arise in response to an article published by MSNBC.com, entitled Tainted seafood reaching American tables, experts say because he considers that that means of communication failed to carefully check the work of the novice reporters who wrote the article.

“They missed huge swaths of available data and were essentially duped by anti-competition groups that want to regulate imported seafood out of the market,” he argued.

Gibbons states that because novice reporters are not well aware of “the fake food safety scare that has been created by special interests groups opposed to imported seafood,” they need editorial direction -- which he says they did not receive -- when tackling the subject matter.

In a letter addressed to MSNBC.com Editor in Chief Jennifer Sizemore, NFI representative asks that the report published this week be immediately removed and that Sizemore conduct an internal review, in which NFI would be “glad to play a role.” 

“Specifically, I am referring to errors of omission and selective research or sourcing that presents not only a sensationalized report but one that is ultimately inaccurate,” Gibbons wrote in the letter.

For example, he referred to paragraph eight of the article, which reads, “seafood is especially risky because of the sheer volume that is imported compared to other goods.”

Gibbons refuted the statement by citing a new, independent report from the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida titled "Ranking the Risks: The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations with the Greatest Burden on Public Health," which shows that seafood, imported or not, has a public health impact far below that of poultry, complex foods, pork, produce, beef, deli/other meats and dairy products.

In paragraph 10, the writer discusses the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory system relying on “preventative controls” rather than testing a large volume of the imported product. But Gibbons highlights the fact that the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, which is the same one used to regulate domestic seafood, is ignored.

“In perhaps the most concerning omission the writer reports, beginning in paragraph 20, on the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ testing 258 samples of imported fish. The reporter simply leaves out the fact that the USDA tested 733 samples of both imported and domestic fish, 10 came back positive: five domestic and five imported. All were ‘at levels below regulatory concern,’” he pointed out.

Finally, Gibbons noted that in paragraph 27, the writer does not clarify that domestic lobbying efforts to get FDA regulation replaced with US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation of domestic catfish is an anti-competition effort meant to keep imports out of the market.

“It goes unreported that a shift to USDA regulation would immediately halt imports. This is not an inside baseball, regulatory play that a cub reporter could miss. In fact, the Wall Street Journal has very publically offered its opinion on the issue, four times,” Gibbons added.

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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