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Cheap, potentially unsafe foreign shrimp driving U.S. shrimpers out of business

Cheap, potentially unsafe foreign shrimp driving U.S. shrimpers out of business

By Allison Triarsi
11 News

HOUSTON—Before you reach for that shrimp cocktail, you need to know what you could be eating.

Recently the FDA issued warnings about eating foreign shrimp because of the chemicals found inside of it.

What’s more, Gulf Coast shrimpers say they’re being put out of business by the foreign imports, which may not even be safe to eat.

Despite recent federal import restrictions, 150 million pounds of farm-raised shrimp from China still makes its way to tables in the U.S. every year.

But the FDA found Chinese shrimp to be contaminated with outlawed antibiotics known to cause cancer in lab mice.

“This is a seafood that is especially dangerous, because the way that it’s grown. So if you can choose wild-caught shrimp from the U.S., you’re a lot safer,” Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch said.

In all, 81 percent of the shrimp we eat comes from foreign countries like China, Thailand and Indonesia – countries where the pond-raised shrimp are fed antibiotics and other chemicals with little to no government oversight.

The result? The foreign shrimp we eat at most restaurants may not be safe, but it’s cheap.

That’s why the dwindling number of shrimp boats sit idly at docks in Freeport and across the Gulf Coast.

In the past, hundreds of shrimp boats would dock outside of Gary Gore’s Western Seafood processing plant.

“There were, at one time when I was a child, there were nine different processing plants. Now, there’s just one, and that’s us,” Gore said.

Gore said the Gulf’s shrimp supply is plentiful, but it’s becoming too expensive to harvest. In the 1970s, Gore got $5 a pound for shrimp. Now he gets half that – all while paying higher fuel costs.

“We have to diversify. We have to cut corners everywhere we can just to survive,” Gore said.

And things just got tougher. A federal investigation is going on right now into three very large U.S. processors allegedly buying cheap pond-raised foreign shrimp and illegally labeling and selling it as more expensive U.S. wild-caught shrimp.

Federal agents say the companies will likely be indicted soon. Shrimpers now worry what will happen if the mislabeled foreign shrimp makes someone sick.

“When you have a scare on a particular foodstuff, it’s going to drive people totally away from the market. Not necessarily to you, but away from the market overall,” Patrick Riley, general manager of Western Seafood, said.

Experts say fear could potentially collapse the market altogether.

From the 5,000 shrimp boats that trawled the Gulf Coast waters in 2000, last year just 880 ventured out to sea.

To save itself, the dying industry has formed the Southern Shrimp Alliance, an eight-state conglomerate lobbying for laws to protect the U.S. shrimper and help all of us realize what we’re really eating when we bite into foreign shrimp.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance recently worked out a deal with Outback Steakhouse in Louisiana to agree to sell nothing but wild-caught U.S. shrimp in its restaurants in that state.

There is also mandatory labeling on packages of shrimp sold at grocery stores saying where that shrimp came from.

Those watching cholesterol needn’t scrimp on shrimp

By Jill Wendholt Silva

August 10, 2005

As with an urban legend that grows at each retelling, sometimes certain foods get a bum rap they can’t shake.

In the 1990s, shrimp was one of those foods shunned for its high cholesterol. But a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1996 found that although they are high in cholesterol, shrimp did not adversely affect production of cholesterol in the body.

David Heber, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California Los Angeles, and author of “What Color Is Your Diet?” goes over 15 common myths about nutrition, including the notion that eating shrimp raises cholesterol levels.

“The American Heart Association acknowledged a long time ago that shrimp had been wrongly accused, but lots of people, including some doctors, still believe this myth.”

To clear up any lingering confusion, boiled or steamed shrimp has been shown to contain about the same amount of cholesterol as the white meat in chicken. Low in fat and calories – especially when flavored with a low-fat marinade – shrimp also offers omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and niacin. Shrimp also are mineral-rich, supplying iron, zinc and copper.

The Rockefeller University Study

A study performed in the mid 1990s at Rockefeller University (New York, USA) concluded that eating steamed shrimp raised blood cholesterol levels when compared with a low-cholesterol diet. However, the shrimp diet raised levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) more than it increased levels of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol”), and the resulting HDL to LDL ratio was favorable. Triglycerides were also lower on this diet when compared to an egg-based diet with equal amounts of cholesterol.


A serving of a dozen large shrimp contains 130 mg of cholesterol. This is not a health concern, because shrimp is low-fat with a rich content of highly unsaturated fatty acids, which lead to the formation of high-density lipids, commonly known as “good cholesterol”. Consuming shrimp may actually lower blood cholesterol levels.

Scientists have concluded that a healthy diet can include shrimp, boiled or broiled.

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Zirlotts Recipes

Zirlotts Boiled Shrimp

Perfect every time. Bring water to boil. Use enough to cover shrimp. You can add crab boil to the water when boiling if you want to, but the best way to season the shrimp is listed below. Add the shrimp and bring back to a rolling boil. Time for 3 minutes, stirring to ensure thorough cooking of shrimp in the middle. When 3 minutes is up, remove shrimp from the hot water and cool down in slushy ice water. This step is important to stop the cooking process. To season shrimp, drain excess water and ice. Sprinkle generously with any combination of the following: Salt, Pepper, Cajun Seasoning, Old Bay, Seafood Seasoning, Cayenne. Or use any seafood seasonings you prefer. Toss to coat. May be refrigerated for a couple of days.

Royal Reds

Royal Reds are caught in very deep water ( about 2000 ft). The shrimp are frozen on the boats. The reds are tender and delicate in flavor and are best if boiled or steamed. Cook Royal Red shrimp like this: To boil, bring water to rolling boil, add thawed shrimp, return to rolling boil, time for 2-2 ½ minutes, drain and eat! Good with sweet-n-sour sauce or honey mustard. If you fry Royal Reds, remember: Don’t Over Cook!

Fried Shrimp Variations

Soak shrimp in beaten egg with about 1 cup of milk (buttermilk without the egg may be used) Add seasoning to 2 cups of flour. Dredge the shrimp in flour and drop in hot oil. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes until shrimp float and are lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Soft-shell crabs and fish are good cooked this way, too.

Shrimp Puffs- Mix 1 egg, 1 cup flour, and milk to make a thick batter. Dip shrimp in batter and drop in hot oil. Cook til they puff and brown. This works well with small shrimp.

Patricia’s Favorite- Mix 1 cup water with 1/4 cup mustard, soak shrimp in mixture,drain, then place in plastic bag with 1 cup flour and salt and pepper to taste. Shake until shrimp are coated and sift out of flour. Drop in hot oil for about 3 to 4 min. until shrimp float and are lightly browned.

Beer-battered shrimp- Use 1 can beer and a little flour. Not too thick, not too thin. Use a fork to dip shrimp in batter. Deep fry until golden brown.

Easy fried shrimp- Place 1 cup cornmeal in small bowl, season with salt and pepper(cajun seasoning,if desired). Roll shrimp in meal, fry in hot oil until lightly browned, drain on paper towels. Makes good Po’Boys.


Using any variation of fried shrimp, spread toasted split rolls with mayonnaise, fill with shrimp. Top with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes.


Add shredded cheese to shrimp, place in 350 degree oven for a couple minutes until melted, then top with tartar sauce.
Party size Po’Boy-Use a loaf of french bread, split and place in oven until lightly toasted(about 10-15 minutes), spread insides of loaf with sandwich spread, fill with fried shrimp, top with thinly sliced onion and tomatoes, then shredded lettuce. Replace top and slice diagonally to make serving sizes. Serve immediately. Heated Italian dressing may be used as a dipping sauce. Yum!
Grilled Shrimp

Place large chunks of onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and large shrimp(raw, peeled and deveined) in shallow pan. Cover with marinade(italian dressing or any steak marinade). Refrigerate overnight or a couple of hours. Skewer alternately and grill for about 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately.

Baked Shrimp

Peel and de-vein jumbo shrimp. Dip in French dressing and roll in crushed potato chips. Place in baking pan and bake in 350 oven for about 10 minutes. Top with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, bake another 5 minutes until cheese is well melted. Serve with pasta salad and fresh sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, cheese is optional.

Shrimp Salad

Finely chop 2 or 3 pounds small boiled shrimp. Mix with 1/4 cup each onions, bell pepper, and celery. Add 3 boiled eggs(chopped)2 Tbsp sweet relish, and about 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Stir well and chill until ready to serve. Add cooked spiral pasta noodles if desired.

Beer-battered Shrimp

Use 1 can beer and a little flour. Not too thick, not too thin. Use a fork to dip shrimp in batter. Deep fry until golden brown.

Chunky Shrimp Dip

1 1/2 lbs. shell on shrimp; 4 1/2 cups water; 1/4 cup each of chopped celery and green onions; 2 Tbsp chopped jalapeno peppers; 2 packages cream cheese; 1/2 tsp hot sauce; 1 tbsp mustard; 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Boil shrimp in the water, peel, devein and chop. Mix together shrimp, celery, green onions, jalapeno peppers in a large bowl. Mix cream cheese and remaining ingredients in separate bowl. Add to shrimp and vegetables, stir well. Chill at least 30 minutes. Serve with crackers.

Easy Gumbo

Use 1 package gumbo mix(Zatarains or Tony Chaceres); 1 package onion soup mix; 1 package brown gravy mix; 1 can diced tomatoes; 1 lb. package frozen cut okra; 3 lbs. shrimp; 1 lb. dark or white crabmeat. Put 3 quarts water in large, heavy pot. Add all ingredients. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper in, stir well. Place on high heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid starts to boil. Reduce heat to med/low, let simmer about 30 minutes. It’s better the next day. Serve with crackers.

Stuffed Flounder

You can use a whole flounder(cleaned and split) or fillets. Thickly slice onions and put in heavily buttered shallow baking pan. Put fillets on top of onions, top with crabmeat stuffing and bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until fish is white and flaky and topping is browned.

Crabmeat Stuffing

Mix 1 pound white or dark crabmeat with 1 cup crushed cracker crumbs or bread crumbs, 1 egg, 1/4 cup each chopped celery and onion, 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning, 1 tsp salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients well with hands or wooden spoon. Makes enough to stuff one large flounder or 6 to 7 crab cakes.

Crab Dip

Mix 1 package softened cream cheese with 1/2 cup mayonnaise and finely chopped onion(1 small). Add a couple of drops hot sauce or horse radish and a dash of salt and pepper. After mixing well, stir in one pound white crabmeat. Serve with your favorite crackers. Variation: use cooked chopped shrimp for crabmeat to make shrimp dip.

Quick & Easy Seafood Supper

Prepare any of the boxed flavored rice meals (chicken, beef, broccoli, etc) and add 1 pound shrimp or 1 pound crab or both, continue to cook, stirring well. You may need to add a little more water. Serve with salad or slaw and a roll.

Oyster Stew

Saute 1/4 cup each chopped onion and celery until tender in a little butter. Add 1 pint small raw oysters, cook until they sizzle and curl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 2 cups milk and heat until scalded. Mix 1 tbs cornstarch with a little water to make a paste, add to milk stew and bring just to a boil to thicken. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and top with croutons.

Fried Oysters

Sprinkle salt and pepper into 1 or 2 cups cornmeal(depending on how many oysters you plan to cook. Drain oysters well and dredge in meal. Place in 1 inch heated oil in heavy fry pan. Brown well on each side turning once or twice. Serve with tartar sauce, or ketchup. Best when hot. May also be eaten as a sandwich on a toasted bun.