Formaldehyde in Vietnamese Swai and Chinese Tilapia

Jamie Johansen

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 2.34.02 PMNBC-TV Charlotte, Greensboro, NC, reported unnaturally high amounts of formaldehyde in four of 15 samples of imported frozen white fish species purchased in national food retail store branches. This evidence was found by a NBC affiliated consumer reporter and a North Carolina laboratory. The Catfish Farmers of America published the following release on the issue.

Formaldehyde-laced Vietnamese swai (a catfish-like species also known as pangasius, basa and tra) was found in three stores. Formaldehyde-tainted Chinese tilapia was also found in three stores.

Following the initial findings, the FDA was alerted. It conducted blind testing of fish found in supermarkets nationwide and found similar results. The FDA, responsible for imported seafood safety in the U.S., does not routinely test for formaldehyde, so there’s no limit on how much of the toxic chemical can be added to fish, NBC Charlotte reported.

“Some fish have small amounts of formaldehyde naturally,” explained consumer reporter Benjamin Briscoe. But, the lab — North Carolina-based Appealing Products, which developed food poison detection kits for the Department of Defense — says natural levels are so low they would not show up on the test. “Turns out, manufacturers in other countries sometimes add formaldehyde to make the fish last longer.”

The recent testing, first reported in April of this year, followed findings in September 2013 of unnatural formaldehyde amounts in frozen seafood imports from Vietnam and China on sale at mainstream food outlets in Raleigh, NC.

Vietnam is the largest supplier of the catfish-like species pangasius (basa, tra and swai) to the U.S., while China is the largest supplier of tilapia.

Consumers should always check the country of origin of seafood they purchase. U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is a reliably wholesome, healthy American grown and processed alternative to potentially dangerous imported seafood.

Ag Group, Fish, Food, food safety