July 15, 2024

Advocates Want OMB To Finalize Catfish Inspection Rule

Food & Water Watch along with other organizations such as Consumer Federation of America and Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention called on the Office of Management and Budget to finalizeĀ an inspection program for domestic and imported catfish. The USDA drafted a final rule on this matter back in 2008 but nothing has happened since then. The FDA currently regulates catfish. Domestic processors are currently inspected just once every 5 to 10 years; only 2% of imported catfish is inspected.

catfishIn 2013, Americans consumed more than 305 million pounds of catfish; about 78% of this is imported, with 95% of imported products coming from Vietnam. That country uses many animal drugs in aquaculture that are not approved in the U.S.; 32 drugs have been approved for use in Vietnam, as opposed to 7 approved in the Untied States. These foreign growers may use unapproved new animal drugs or chemicals to prevent or control fungal, viral, or bacterial issues that are not permitted for use in food animals in this country.

There is evidence that residues of these chemicals remain in the fish. Potential immediate and long-range health problems for people eating these contaminated catfish may include toxicity-related reactions, cancer, gene mutations, hypersensitivity reactions, and exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In 2009, FDA tested 0.1% of all imported seafood products for drug residues. From 2006 to 2009, FDA did not analyze a single catfish sample for nitrofurans, which are banned in this country because it causes cancer. Vietnam and other countries do use this drug in their aquaculture industry.

USDA-FSIS conducts drug residue sampling, microbiological sampling, packaging and label checks and other actions at ports of entry to ensure foreign food safety systems are operating correctly. FSIS does inspect every shipment of meat and poultry that entries the country; they will apply the same rules to catfish products once the rule is approved and finalized and USDA takes over catfish inspection.

FSIS assessed the impact of applying this inspection program compared to the current regulations a few years ago, and found that the implementation would reduce 175,000 cancers, 91,800,000 exposures to antibiotics, and 23,280,000 exposures to heavy metals in American consumers. Imported catfish numbers have more than doubled since this assessment was conducted, so those numbers are much higher now.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch said in a statement, “Americans want to be sure that the catfish they eat and feed their families is safe, yet bowing to pressure from importers and other nations, the Obama administration continues to hold up implementation of this important rule. Enough is enough. The domestic catfish industry welcomes this regulation, as do consumers. Six years is more than enough time, let’s get this rule implemented.”



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