Catfish industry disturbed by GAO report

by Wally Northway

Published: March 6,2011

Tags: agriculture, aquaculture, catfish, fish, food, food safety, imports, labeling

WASHINGTON — The Catfish Farmers of America says it welcomes streamlining U.S. government regulation of America’s food supply chain, but warns that back-peddling on critical seafood safety inspections and regulations will put consumers at greater risk.

In a new report, the Government Accountability Office questions the cost of transferring the regulation of catfish from the Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The comments were contained in a report recommending consolidation of America’s food safety agencies.

“The GAO report’s suggestion that regulation of catfish be returned to the FDA is a giant step backwards in protecting the health and safety of American consumers,” said Butch Wilson, newly elected president of the Catfish Farmers of America. “Congress moved catfish inspections from the FDA to USDA because the USDA system provides far greater health and safety oversight of catfish production and processing. That decision was based, in part, on a previous GAO finding that FDA inspects only two percent of all seafood imported into the United States.”

The CFA maintains that the USDA has greater authority to conduct on-site safety inspections of production facilities, guarantee accurate labeling and enforce requirements that imported meat, poultry and catfish meet the same health and safety standards as American products.

“Our primary goal is to ensure the safety of our product for the American consumer,” Wilson said.

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