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Catfish industry wants USDA inspections

JACKSON — 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, the industry said in a statement. As a result, the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry supports Congress’ 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.”

According to figures supplied by the industry, seafood consumption in the United States now exceeds 4.9 billion pounds annually, and of this amount, over 83 percent are imported. Under current FDA regulations, more than 99 percent 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.

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