Assessment of Frozen Uncooked Imported Prawns for Antimicrobial-Resistant Micro-organisms of Aquaculture and Public Health Significance and residues of Ag-vet chemicals

Project Number:



Future Fisheries Veterinary Service Pty Ltd (FFVS)

Principal Investigator:

Matt A. Landos

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





The risk of importation of AMR into Australia via uncooked prawn commodities has not been assessed. Given the existing pathway of dissemination of prawn commodities into waterways via disposal (berley)/use (bait) the release and establishment of AMR microbes could impact on prawn hatchery performance, where juvenile stages are particularly sensitive to bacterial diseases such as Vibriosis. Should AMR enter hatcheries via the use of wild broodstock, water or aerosol pathways it could contribute to great challenges in maintaining reliable hatchery production for the entire prawn farming sector, for it could render the currently available antimicrobials useless. There is growing concern about the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in humans, and the pathways for its entry and establishment. The trade of importing uncooked prawns for human consumption was temporarily suspended from early January to early July 2017 after the WSSV outbreaks on the Logan River in Queensland and import compliance breaches were identified. With this trade re-opening the pathway for potential entry of AMR on live bacteria warrants assessment. A further pathway for generating enhanced risk of antimicrobial resistance is through allowing human consumption of commodities with sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotic and agricultural chemical residue.The Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) are seeking to better understand the presence or absence of a range of chemical residues in imported prawn products. Insufficient data has been collected as part of the National Residue Survey to give industry confidence that the imported products do not pose a potential health risk to consumers, and hence do not pose a risk to the marketing and sales of prawns generally. Data is needed to inform the submission from the APFA to the review of the Commonwealth Import Risk Assessment of uncooked crustacean and Australia's food safety regulator (FSANZ).


1. Define the identity of bacteria and their status with respect to phenotypic and genotypic antimicrobial resistance associated with imported frozen uncooked prawn commodities

2. Quantify the type and level of antibiotic and agricultural chemical residue in a range of imported prawn commodities purchased at Australian retail outlets

3. Discuss the implications of studies findings in respect of biosecurity controls and how they can contribute to protection of the productivity of the prawn farming industry and protection of human health

Assessment of frozen uncooked imported prawns for antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms of aquaculture and public health significance and residues of Ag-vet chemicals

Author(s):Matt Landos
Date Published:February 2018
As part of the response to the outbreak of White Spot Disease (WSD) in prawn farms along the Logan River, Southern Queensland in late November 2016, uncooked prawns were purchased by Dr Matt Landos (Future Fisheries Veterinary Service Pty Ltd) from various retail outlets in northern NSW and south east Queensland. These retail prawn samples were tested by qPCR for White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV) under FRDC project 2016/066. This project (2017-091) utilised residual sample material which had been held at -20oC at Future Fisheries Veterinary Service, East Ballina NSW, since collection during December 2016 and January 2017. Residual samples which were labelled as imported product either by signage at the retail outlet, or on product packaging were tested for:
1) Presence of bacteria that were of significance to aquaculture and public health (tested at the University of Adelaide)
2) Presence of resistance to a range of antimicrobials (tested at the University of Adelaide)
3) Presence of a suite of antimicrobials and other Ag-vet chemicals (tested at Queensland Government Chemical Residue Laboratory)