Customers of Mississippi restaurants will now know whether the catfish on their late is domestically produced or is an imported variety of catfish-like pangasius, also sold as basa, tra and swai.
Mississippi producers persuaded legislators this month to amend the state’s catfish Country of Origin Labeling law to require restaurants to also identify the origin of froeigh produced catfish.
The measure, approved unanimously, gives “restaurant patrons the power to decide for themselves if they wish to eat the cheaper, but often tainted, imports,“ said Roger Barlow, president of the Jackson-based Catfish Institute.
Vietnam is the world’s largest producer of pangasius — an import Barlow says incurs huge inspection violation numbers despite the Food and Drug Administration‘s minimal testing.
“Although the FDA tests less than 1 percent of imported seafood, it consistently finds serious violations in pangasius imports,” Barlow said. “ Of the 17 pangasius shipments subject to FDA import refusal actions last year, six had residues of both the carcinogen nitrofuran and illegal and potentially harmful veterinarian drugs, which are banned in the United States. Salmonella was found in 10 shipments, and one shipment was refused for being ‘filthy.’”
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, newly elevated to ranking Republican member on the Agriculture Committee, sponsored the 2008 Farm Bill requirement on imported catfish inspections. He has been critical, however, of what he says has been the federal government failure to implement a more stringent inspection process for imported fish products.
In a press statement last week, he urged the Obama administration to initiate “an inspection program that will ensure the quality of fish imports, particularly for imports marketed as catfish.”