Back away from the shrimp cocktail. We repeat, back away from the shrimp cocktail. That is, if it was made with frozen shrimp.
Why? Consumer Reports just published a comprehensive study of the safety of frozen shrimp that uncovered some appalling results. It turns out that all those people who call shrimp "the cockroaches of the sea" are kinda right.
The magazine's investigators bought 342 packages of frozen shrimp, some raw and some cooked, from several major supermarket chains. They tested the shellfish for pathogens and antibiotics, and found that 60 percent contained one of four types of bacteria that can cause disease in humans -- including 16 percent of the cooked, ready-to-eat samples. These bacteria included vibrio, a potentially lethal bacteria closely associated with raw oysters that is becoming more common as the temperature of the world's oceans rises.
More worrisome still, Consumer Reports found traces of antibiotics in 11 of the samples, all of them imported from Asia. The FDA forbids the use of antibiotics in shrimp aquaculture because they contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. But some producers, especially abroad, use them to ward off disease and increase their output -- and 94 percent of the shrimp sold in America is imported from other countries.
If you're a shrimp fan discouraged by these results, Consumer Reports does have a suggestion: buy sustainably fished wild shrimp. Like any other wild seafood, it may contain pathogens, but it's very unlikely to contain antibiotics.