Washington The list of quality-compromised goods from China grew Thursday, as federal authorities slapped a highly unusual hold on shrimp and certain fish from that country after tests showed contamination from potentially harmful drugs.
The Food and Drug Administration said it would block all shipments from China of farm-raised shrimp, catfish, eel and two other kinds of fish until importers can produce independent test results showing the items to be free of drugs banned in U.S. fish farming.
Agency officials said there was no immediate threat to human health. An industry expert said he didn't expect shortages of shrimp after the FDA action, because there was more than enough available on the world market.
Thursday's FDA action came just days after federal transportation officials ordered the recall of up to 450,000 tires made in China after some lost their treads on the road. Toothpaste from China that was recalled because of contamination with an antifreeze chemical now turns out to have been distributed not just to a few discount stores, but to prisons and mental hospitals in Georgia. Earlier this year, a pet food manufacturer recalled massive amounts of its products because of contamination in an ingredient imported from China.
Two senior Democratic lawmakers - Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut - called for the government to negotiate a food safety agreement with China that would raise standards in that country.
"'Made in China' is rapidly becoming a warning label for American consumers," Durbin said.
Food industry experts said the FDA rarely issues an import detention order covering a product from an entire country. Instead, the sanction usually is used against individual companies that have failed to correct problems.
The FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of imported seafood and produce, but it is widely acknowledged to be seriously short of funding to carry out its mission. As a result, only about 1 percent of food imports are inspected.