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Memphis restaurant caught mislabeling catfish

A Memphis television station recently reported that The Dixie Café was selling Vietnamese farmed pangasius labeled as “catfish” and failed to properly identify the fish to consumers. Under federal law, only American channel catfish (ictalurus) may be sold as catfish.

The FDA said it only physically inspects between one and two percent of fish imports, meaning 98 percent or more of imported pangasius eaten by Americans has not been inspected at all for safety. In sharp contrast, Bill Battle, a U.S. Catfish farmer in the Memphis metropolitan area said the FDA inspects his operation once a month. “If they found any of the dangerous additives frequently found in Vietnamese fish in my fish, they would shut me down,” Mr. Battle added.

As reported by media and consumer organizations across the nation, as much as 50 percent of seafood Americans eat in restaurants is mislabeled. Often, cheap and potentially tainted Vietnamese pangasius is illegally sold as other, more expensive species including catfish and grouper. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee require restaurants to label the country of origin (COOL) of catfish served. The federal government, however, has no such requirement, and not every state law covers pangasius, which is often served as “catfish.”


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.


  1. If you go to the aquarium in Chattanooga you will see species of Pangasius. The sign on the wall says ” Pangasius ( giant catfish)” if the aquarium calls them catfish why can’t a restaurant?

  2. Daniel-Mississippi

    @ Nealmurphy Because the pangasius are grown in cesspools, similar to open sewage lagoons. Cheaper does not necessarily equal better. Buy American.

  3. +1 on Daniel’s comment.

    Consider also that in the average consumer’s mind the term catfish equals US farm raised channel catfish. In the US, public notice is given to not eat fish taken from waters that have certain levels of pollutants. I have witnessed in another country fish being cleaned for sale in (what we here would consider) open sewage run-off. In another, untreated byproduct of chicken slaughter processing being shoveled by hand as feed into ponds where food turtles were being farmed. I admit these two experiences were many years ago, things may have changed…but as for me and my house we will only eat US pond raised fish. You could not pay my wife to even consider eating a fish from another source. She won’t eat fish I catch.

  4. I suspect that the restaurant in western Kentucky where I ate lunch at today served me pangasius. The menu said Catfish fillets. I asked the young waitress if it was real American catfish and she said yes and that everyone liked their catfish. So I ordered two fillets. The fillets she brought me did not look like American catfish fillets that I have bought and fried myself and they tasted different. They were about 9 inches long and laid flat on the plate, no curling around edges. Taste was Ok but the texture just seeme different. I only ate one fillet and my beans and slaw, did not argue or question further.

    Question is how is the best way to determine if you are being served real American catfish or pangasius?

    What can you do about a restaurant that is deceiving the public about catfish?


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