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Tougher Inspections Of Catfish Sold In US


US - The Catfish Farmers of America have urged newly confirmed USDA food safety chief Elisabeth Hagen to enforce a law approved by Congress more than two years ago requiring tough new USDA inspections and regulation of all catfish sold in America.

“With the many food safety problems in America today, the Obama administration is delaying an important law that would provide new protections for the health and safety of consumers,” said Joey Lowery, president of the Catfish Farmers of America.

“Congress voted more than two years ago to require USDA oversight of all catfish, both imported and domestic. President Obama and his administration have refused to implement the law and safeguard our families."

Lowery and Carole Engle, an aquaculture expert from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, were part of a group highlighting food safety concerns in urging Hagen to take action on the law. Hagen recently took over as chief of the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, the agency authorised to move the regulation forward.

The bill will transfer all inspections and regulations regarding catfish from the FDA to the USDA, which has more stringent inspection and safety programmes.

“As in the current situation with eggs, reports indicate that bureaucratic stalemates are preventing the enforcement of critical food safety regulations,” Mr Lowery said.

Accountability Office reported that the FDA inspects only two per cent of all seafood imported into the United States.

“For US catfish farmers, food safety is our highest priority and we welcome stricter USDA oversight of both our domestic catfish and imported catfish,” said Mr Lowery.

“Whether a food safety incident results from domestic or foreign fish, the impact is the same: Consumer confidence in all catfish declines.”

Nearly one-third of all catfish sold in America is imported from Vietnam and China, where fish farming environments are far less controlled and the incidence of contamination is much greater than in the United States.

Both federal and state governments have found serious health risks in imported catfish which contain chemicals, pollutants and antibiotics that are banned for use in fish farming in the United States.