Lawmakers Back Off Shifting Seafood Inspections to USDA


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
May 4, 2008

Lawmakers negotiating a final farm bill appear to have scrapped a proposal to shift all seafood inspection oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a report in FDA Week.

The Senate attached a measure that would add catfish to the list of species included in the Federal Meat Inspection Act, essentially giving the USDA the authority to inspect and grade catfish, both domestic and imported.

The House failed to fasten a similar measure to its version, but staffers drafted a broader measure that would add all seafood, including catfish, to the act.

The catfish industry requested USDA oversight because it would force foreign catfish producers to meet USDA standards. The FDA issued an import alert for Chinese catfish last summer due to the ongoing use of illegal veterinary drugs.

In a late April letter to the House and Senate agriculture committees, the National Fisheries Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association said shifting oversight to the USDA "poses a serious threat to the food industry's ability to provide safe, fresh and wholesome seafood to American consumers."

The food trade associations argued that an inspection plan for imported seafood would add costly bureaucracy and do little to enhance the safety of the nation's seafood supply.

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