NEW DELHI : Detection of banned antibiotics in seafood and meat has prompted India’s top drug advisory body to seek greater surveillance, given the danger they pose to human and animal health. Antibiotics fail to work in patients routinely exposed to these drugs through food, a public health threat called antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Banned antibiotics have surfaced in aquaculture, including shrimps, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), the country’s top technical advisory body on drugs, noted in a meeting last month.
“The results of the National Residue Control Plan (NRCP) for aquaculture analysis showed that the banned antibiotics are detected in shrimp samples, indicating the usage of compounds leading to the rising rate of rejections of shrimp consignments in the European Union (EU). The authority has sought measures that will restrict availability and the usage of banned antibiotics in food-producing animals, including shrimps,” the minutes of the meeting said.
In 2017, the Union health ministry issued guidance to various agencies to reduce the spread of AMR, stating the burden of AMR in food animals has been poorly documented in India, while seafood has high levels of resistance.
DTAB also asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the department of animal husbandry and dairying, the department of fisheries, the agriculture ministry, and the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) to check the situation. “A stakeholders’ consultation should be held for developing strategy and for taking further action in the matter.”
The advisory board also recommended discussing the matter at the Drugs Controller General of India’s Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) to ensure that the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules are properly implemented so that antibiotics are not diverted for use in food-producing animals.
DTAB said MPEDA has reported about many banned pharmacologically active subjects, including antibiotics appearing in shrimp samples meant for exports. Queries sent to a spokesperson of the health ministry and the other departments remained unanswered.
According to government data, India achieved all-time high exports of seafood in terms of volume and value—1,735.3 billion tonnes worth $8.09 billion—in FY23, with frozen shrimps at the top position.
In 2018, the country’s top food regulator FSSAI through a gazette notification, announced that various antibiotics and veterinary drugs, including nitrofurans such as furaltadone, furazolidone, nitrofurantoin, nitrofurazone and chloramphenicol, are banned from being used at any stage of processing of meat and meat products, poultry and eggs, seafood or any variety of fish and fishery products.
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