US importer recalls large quantity of Vietnamese catfish

A United States seafood importer had to recall 154,560 pounds of Vietnamese catfish due to confusion over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) catfish inspection rules.

City of Industry, California-based Richwell Group, Inc., doing business as Maxfield Seafood, is recalling the Siluriformes fish products because “they were produced at a Vietnamese establishment that was not eligible to export siluriformes fish to the U.S.,” FSIS said in a press release.

In addition, the farmed “yellow walking fish” were not presented for import re-inspection into the United States, according to FSIS. The fish was distributed primarily to Vietnamese markets across the United States.

Richwell imported the fish in February, and it was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration without incident, Jae Hwang, seafood operations manager for Maxfield, told SeafoodSource. 

“However, siluriformes items are part of the catfish family, now subject to USDA inspection in recent years (like swai fish). In addition, our customs broker was not aware of the recent changes and failed to inform us of the necessity of inspection by USDA - FSIS under the new law,” Hwang said.

Maxfield Seafood is just one of several importers that have been forced to recall catfish products this year due to confusion over the USDA now inspecting catfish imports. Plus, importers are unaware that the USDA considers certain fish species as catfish. 

Maxfield is the second company this year to recall yellow walking fish. Earlier this month, Los Angeles, California-based Crab House Trading Corp. recalled 36,040 pounds of frozen yellow walking fish that were produced without the benefit of federal inspection.

“It surprised us, big time,” Jose Benitez, operations manager for Crab House, told SeafoodSource. The recalled fish from Vietnam “is not the type grown and sold in the U.S. We don’t consider it catfish,” Benitez said.

Additionally, the fish had already been inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Crab House was “not aware that it had to go through the USDA inspection,” Benitez said.

Maxfield also recalled around 55,300 pounds of frozen Sheat catfish products in February. The fish were not presented for import re-inspection into the U.S., according to FSIS.

In this latest instance, Maxfield recalled the packages labeled “Farm Raised Individually Quick Frozen Headless Yellow Walking Fish,” which it imported from March 2018 through January 2019. The products have a shelf life of two years.

“It should be reiterated here that there have been zero injuries or illness reported from human consumption of the fish,” Hwang said. Moreover, there has been very little to no impact to its business from the recall as “most items were from the early part of 2018 and a majority of products were already enjoyed,” Hwang added.

However, the recall is “of high concern for us and we are working to correct the root cause to prevent any future incident,” he said.

The problem was discovered on 22 May during routine FSIS surveillance activities of imported products, the agency said.

“FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase,” FSIS said.


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