A press release from Food & Water Watch states that last week, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) stopped more than 40,000 pounds of unsafe catfish products from being imported into the United States from Vietnam. The shipment tested positive for malachite green, a drug that is banned for use in food animals in this country because it is potentially carcinogenic. That compound is used in farm fisheries as an anti fungal agent and an antimicrobial.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch said in a statement, “since FSIS took over inspection of both domestic and imported siluriformes and catfish in April 2016, the agency has taken actions to protect consumers.” In May 2016, a shipper from China refused to let FSIS inspect his shipment of catfish and was stopped from offloading the cargo. In June 2016, an importer was forced to recall imported siluriformes from Vietnam because they had by-passed FSIS inspection protocols.
In addition, in July 2016, a domestic catfish processor was forced to recall more than 21,000 pounds of catfish products that tested positive for Genetian Violet, another drug that is banned in U.S. fish. Hauter continued, “the FSIS catfish inspection program is working and needs to continue in operation because it is preventing food borne illness in the U.S.”
Unfortunately, in May of this year, the Senate voted to block the USDA catfish inspection program. The measure is pending in the House, which is on its usual extended summer vacation. Catfish raised in this country are inspected by the USDA, but only a small number, about 1 to 2%, of imported catfish were inspected by the FDA before the new program was instituted. In fact, only about 2% of all imported foods are inspected by government officials.
The new USDA program has been finding dangerous antibiotics and potential carcinogens in imported catfish since it began on April 15, 2016. The 2008 Farm Bill moved catfish inspection from the USDA to FDA. USDA traditionally oversees meat, poultry, and processed egg products, while the FDA regulates all other foods, including seafood. FDA uses a risk-based program for inspecting seafood, which is why it only inspects a fraction of the seafood imported into this country.