USDA publishes catfish-inspection rule


Steven Hedlund

Published on
February 17, 2011

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday published the much-anticipated rule for inspecting and grading domestic and imported catfish.

The measure would charge the USDA with inspecting catfish under the agency’s Federal Meat Inspection Act; inspections would be mandatory. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for inspecting domestic and imported seafood.

The measure was attached to the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, commonly referred to as the 2008 Farm Bill, which Congress passed in June 2008. But U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack delayed the rule for more than two years due to the controversy surrounding the measure.

In the draft rule, the USDA was vague as to whether pangasius, a catfish-like species farmed primarily in Vietnam, would be included in the final rule. “Although a determination as to the definition of catfish has not yet been made, any foreign producers or processors handling catfish, as defined by a final rule, will be subject to FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) processes and procedures,” said the agency.

The Catfish Institute and several Southern lawmakers back the measure, but U.S. catfish and pangasius importers oppose it, calling it protectionist.

Click here to view the rule.

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