Report Cites Imported Catfish Hazards

A report (PDF) from a food safety research company identifies potential hazards, including microbial and chemical contamination, in the aquaculture and processing of imported catfish. The report concludes that the current inspection system for imported catfish “does not provide sufficient protection” for consumers.

The trade group Catfish Farmers of America commissioned Exponent Inc., a research company in Menlo Park, Calif., to conduct the report, said Barbara Petersen, PhD, MPH, a principal scientist in Exponent’s Center for Chemical Regulation and Food. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, unveiled the report at a news conference that was also attended by representatives of Food & Water Watch and Catfish Farmers of America.

At the briefing, Sen. Lincoln expressed her displeasure with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has delayed implementing a new catfish inspection rule mandated in the Farm Bill of 2008. That legislation moved the jurisdiction over inspection of catfish from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

“The 2008 Farm Bill was very clear that all catfish, domestic and imported, must meet the highest USDA standards in order to ensure the health and safety of American consumers. … Delay in the implementation of the catfish inspection rule continues to expose consumers to products that originate from countries who do not abide by the same strict safety standards as we do,” Sen. Lincoln said in a text of her remarks released by the Agriculture Committee.

The report notes that FDA testing of imported catfish has shown the presence of illegal drugs and chemicals given to fish in freshwater aquaculture. Antimicrobials found in imported catfish include malachite green and gentian violet, both human carcinogens, and fluoroquinolones. All are illegal for use in aquaculture in the U.S.

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