Food security group sees need for inspection facilities in ports

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    Food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan (TK) is calling for the establishment of food inspection facilities in the country’s major ports amid reports of excessive use of antibiotics by fish farms in China.

    “Overuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of drug-resistant superbugs in the long run. This is a food safety concern that needs to be addressed since we import from countries like China. We must emphasize that we shouldn’t discriminate in terms of inspection and testing. All imported fish and other food items, for that matter, should be tested for antibiotics and diseases, regardless of their country of origin,” said Asis Perez, the group’s convenor, in an online briefing yesterday.

    The country imported almost P9 billion worth of fish, mollusks and aquatic invertebrates including pompano, baby shrimps and tilapia from China in 2019.

    TK cited a report from the South China Morning Post based on a research done by Peking University professor Wen Donghui as published in the journal Marine Environmental Science, revealing that data collected from many locations along China’s 32,000 kilometers coast line suggested antibiotics were building up at an alarming pace and were being found in fish and other forms of marine life.

    It noted that in waters near some farms in Guangdong and in the Bohai Sea, concentration of antibiotics could reach more than 2 micrograms per liter of sea water or equivalent to dropping 20,000 penicillin pills into a standard swimming pool.

    The research further revealed prohibited antibiotics like fulfathiaole, chloramphenicol and erythromycin were detected in the waters which may also indicate that farmers in China violated regulations.

    However, the study said that while the use of antibiotics might not cause immediate harm, “the combined effect of different types of antibiotics remains poorly understood and requires further investigation.”

    Perez said while the Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Ports Authority committed to hasten the development of the country’s first Agriculture Commodity Examination Area, “perhaps the government can consider accrediting third-party testing centers to do the job (for the meantime.)”