Seafood safety will improve thanks to a US government program announced yesterday by President Bush.
This announcement grows out of the import scandals involving lead-contaminated toys, contaminated pet food, and contaminated feed for farmed fish, etc. Consumer confidence was shaken and action is likely.
The Bush administration has one plan, and Congress has some alternative options in mind, so the final shape of reforms is not yet clear.
One key action seems likely, giving the Food and Drug Administration the power to order mandatory recalls, which is much stronger than the current requirement for voluntary recalls. This should help get unsafe food products off the market quickly when they're identified.
Another important step will be to station US inspectors in foreign countries that export to the US, to look for problems before bad products reach the US.
How bad is the problem? According to ABC News reports, Alabama developed state inspections and now routinely rejects imported seafood that would otherwise reach consumers since US testing programs are currently inadequate. The National Fisheries Institute challenges these claims, and I don't know who's right.
Since we can't even be sure that species labels on fish are accurate, it's hard to believe that everthing's fine in the area of seafood reliability and safety. Some US seafood businesses that compete with imported seafood have testified before Congress regarding lax US inspections of imported seafood, much weaker than European inspection programs. I hope credible seafood businesses work within the industry to provide assurance to consumers that seafood sold in the US is safe to eat.