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The FDA increased monitoring on products imported from China since health scares over pet food and toothpaste, and the agency says it has been vigorously monitoring seafood since before 2001.

“The focus is on China; we’re looking for problems where we think they exist,” said Margaret Glavin, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the FDA.

Chinese health officials said before the FDA announcement yesterday that the country’s exports are safe, issuing a rare direct commentary because of the international scrutiny of its products.

Earlier this week, Chinese officials seized shipments of orange pulp and preserved apricots from the United States, citing high levels of bacteria, mildew and sulphur dioxide. However, Chinese officials said the seizure was not indicative of a tit-for-tat trade war.

The contaminants, nitrofuran, malachite green, gentian violet and fluoroquinolone, are used to fight bacteria and disease in fish. Nitrofuran, malachite green and gentian violet have been shown to be carcinogenic with long-term exposure in lab animals, and the use of fluoroquinolones in animals raised for food may increase antibiotic resistance.

None of the substances are approved for use in farm-raised seafood in the United States, and the use of nitrofurans and malachite green in aquaculture is also prohibited by Chinese authorities. Chinese officials acknowledge that fluoroquinolones are used in Chinese aquaculture and are permitted for use in China.