Preliminary results from the federal government's first complete inspection of American seafood processing facilities show that as many as 20 percent of the samples analyzed showed evidence of microbiological contamination, decomposition and filth.
The as-yet unpublished findings, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's newly created Office of Seafood in Washington, indicate that the seafood industry has yet to solve a host of product safety problems.
The inspections also found evidence of economic fraud. Forty product samples were considered economic violations for improper labeling, misbranding, or short-weight problems.
Told of the report, a seafood trade group declined comment. Ellen Haas, a Washington consumer advocate and seafood industry critic, however, called the findings "damaging" and cause for public concern.
The FDA review of 3,852 processing plants encompassed manufacturers, growers, repackers, shippers -- all types and sizes of processing operations below the wholesale level. Officials say that all commercial species of fin fish and shellfish are being analyzed for contaminants and other problems. The purpose of the survey, which may be finished by late April, is to identify the industry's most severe problems and to suggest how the FDA should allocate its resources.
First inspection results were compiled for two important seafood producing areas, the Pacific Coast and the Southeastern United States.