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.