Monday, July 27, 2009

The U.S. Catfish Industry Stands Firm, Maintains Support for USDA Inspections

July 24, 2009 06:06 PM Eastern Daylight Time

JACKSON, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Because consumer confidence in safe and healthy seafood is critical, the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry maintains its support for USDA inspections.

U.S. consumers currently believe that their seafood is subject to the same rigorous inspection standards as those imposed on meat and poultry products, but current FDA inspection programs are hardly adequate to handle the nation’s demand for seafood. As a result, the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish Industry supports Congress’s recommendation to transfer catfish inspection responsibilities to the USDA and its Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

“Aquaculture is agriculture, plain and simple; our catfish are grown by farmers, not fisherman,” said Roger Barlow, president of The Catfish Institute. “Because of this, it simply makes sense that our industry be regulated by the appropriate administration.”

Seafood consumption in the United States now exceeds 4.9 billion pounds annually, and of this amount, over 83% are imported. Under current FDA regulations, more than 99% of seafood imports do not undergo inspection. Furthermore, only a fraction of that amount is tested for contamination with illegal drugs and chemicals. Specifically, from May 2008 to May 2009, 14 Vietnamese pangasius (basa/tra/swai) shipments were refused entry by the FDA.

“Catfish farmers want consumers of our product to be protected by the one food safety system that is actually working and instills confidence – USDA inspection,” said Joey Lowery, president of Catfish Farmers of America (CFA).

The meat, eggs and poultry that U.S. consumers eat are all subject to rigorous and continuous inspection by FSIS, regardless of whether they are produced domestically or imported. All production and processing practices are strictly and uniformly regulated, ensuring consumers that what they feed their families is safe and of the highest quality.

According to Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, who led a delegation of Committee members to Vietnam in December 2008, the water Vietnamese catfish are raised in is “putrid” and unfit for aquaculture. “This stands in stark contrast to the U.S. catfish farms which are subject to rigid environmental and health standards, ensuring a safe, healthy and sustainable product,” said Barlow.

The U.S. catfish industry fully supports fair trade for seafood products, but not at the expense of food safety and the health of the American consumer.

Catfish Farmers of America
Taylor Webb, 601-206-1600

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