INDIANOLA, Mississippi — Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) claims inadequate inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed Asian fish with high levels of formaldehyde into the country.
“The FDA is failing miserably when it comes to protecting consumers from the dangers of imported seafood and catfish,” said Ben Pentecost, Mississippi catfish farmer and president of CFA.
The CFA based its tainted fish complaint on a September article in the Food Safety News that reported researchers in North Carolina found that a large number of fish imported from Asian countries contained “unnatural levels” of formaldehyde, a toxic chemical commonly used as a disinfectant or embalming agent. When researchers tested U.S. fish of the same species, they found no harmful chemicals, the article reported.
“If contaminated fish is being found in North Carolina, imagine what could be found on supermarket shelves all across the United States,” said Pentecost. “Due to the FDA’s weak inspection program, 98 percent of imported seafood is being sold directly to American families with no inspection, and less than 1 percent is actually being tested for contaminants. The U.S. government needs to be reminded that it has a duty to maintain the safety of our nation’s food supply.”
In 2008, Congress authorized the creation of a catfish inspection program within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which also inspects U.S. Farm-Raised and foreign beef, pork and poultry. Pentecost said the inspection program has yet to be implemented, putting consumers at risk.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said in an early summer interview that formulating of regulations and procedures has been delaying the hand-off of imported catfish inspections to the USDA.