Today is the first anniversary of the filing by USDA of a proposed rule with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a mandatory inspection program for both domestic and foreign catfish.

Catfish inspection by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is required by the 2008 Farm Bill and final regulations were suppose to be in place no later than December 2009.

 “But after a year spent with the proposal sitting at the OMB, the Obama administration has yet to release the proposed regulations for public comment,” says Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. 


In a prepared statement marking the anniversary, Hauter also said:

“The Obama administration has stated that it is interested in enhancing food safety for American consumers.  So we cannot understand why it has not taken action on a food safety program established by Congress.

 “Currently, the Food and Drug Administration regulates catfish. Domestic catfish processors receive FDA inspections once every 5 to 10 years and only 2 percent of imported catfish gets inspected. The new inspection program would subject domestic catfish processors to daily USDA inspection and imported catfish – much of which is raised in insanitary conditions and is treated with antibiotics and other chemicals that have been deemed to be illegal in the U.S. – would receive more rigorous inspection by the USDA.

 “It seems clear that the Obama Administration is being pressured by importers and countries that export catfish not to implement the new regulations because they would not be able to meet stronger USDA standards. The President should make up his mind. Is he more interested in protecting U.S. consumers or promoting trade?  We believe that the choice is clear. The Obama Administration should stop dragging its feet and publish the proposed catfish inspection regulations immediately so that U.S. consumers are protected.”

Food and Water Watch is a Washington D.C.-based environmental and consumer group.  Catfish Farmers of America, the industry group representing domestic catfish producers, has recently be airing television ads in support of USDA catfish inspections.

  • doc raymond

    Ms Hauter knows better than to call this a food safety issue. If it were truly a food safety issue, all imported fish and seafood would be under USDA inspection. There is no significant difference between the domestic raising of catfish and other fish and seafoods that we import from Asia. This was an amendment attached to the Farm Bill of 2008 that was promulgated by Senator Thad Cochran of the great Catfish raising state of Mississippi to protect his constituents.
    Once this becomes finalized, if it ever is, we will have significant trade issues with Asia, and our beef, pork and poultry industries will be penalized by Asia while a very few domestic Catfish farmers will benefit, but only for awhile. This rule, if implemented, will be followed by another WTO action brought forth by China, and they will prevail, just as they did when Congress barred USDA from promulgating rules and regs that might have allowed China to export cooked chicken mear.
    Congress is the last place we should look to to improve the safety of the US food supply. And Food and Water Watch should pick another battle to fight where they can truly take the high road. This road only leads to criticism and cynicism of the US Congress for the way they try to promote protectionism under the guise of food safety.

  • Bill Hoenig

    Could not agree more with Mr. Raymond, this is nothing but a thinly disguissed non tariff trade barrier that if implemented will have disastrous consequences. At a time that the US is looking to export markets for growth, the last thing we need is to start a trade war in order to benefit a few catfish farmers.