NFI: U.S. catfish lobby distorting truth


Steven Hedlund

Published on
October 20, 2010

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) is again accusing the Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) of distorting the truth and scaring consumers into believing that imported catfish and pangasius (swai, tra) are unsafe to eat.

On Tuesday, the CFA began airing TV ads on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC urging the Obama administration to implement a measure that would transfer the responsibility of inspecting catfish and pangasius imports from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the measure was included in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“The White House has had more than two years to enforce a law that could provide important food-safety protections for American consumers,” said CFA President Joey Lowery. “With all the food-safety problems in America today, we don’t need more bureaucratic delays in implementing this law.”

The CCF and its supporters, including Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), have been on the offensive since July, when it took to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to further its message that imported catfish and pangasius pose a health risk.

Posted on the CFA’s website,, the 30-second spot features a woman serving two children a meal in a kitchen. “Did you know only 2 percent of imported seafood is inspected? The Mekong River in Vietnam, full of contaminants, sends us 100 million pounds of catfish each year, and 98 percent gets served for dinner un-inspected,” she said. “Congress voted to fix this problem, but the White House won’t act. Mr. President, please, make our families’ health and safety your No. 1 concern.”

On Wednesday, NFI said the ad is “filled with half-truths and hypocrisy” and ignores the system set up by the FDA to ensure seafood safety at the point of production, called HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). Opponents, including NFI, say CFA’s anti-import tactics amount to protectionism and are not in the best interest of food safety.

“This is just another sad chapter in a special interest’s effort to keep choices from the American consumer. Imported fish undergoes the same strict safety controls that domestic catfish has undergone for more than 10 years,” said NFI President John Connelly. “In the past decade seafood, both imported and domestic, has enjoyed an excellent food-safety record because the public health professionals regulating seafood at the FDA know their jobs. Claiming this is anything other than a trade issue is as laughable as the exaggerated concern seen in this ad.”

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