U.S. GAO: Catfish inspection program a ‘fragmentation’

The United States’ Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on Thursday that called the pending U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) catfish inspection program a clear example of “fragmentation” within federal food safety oversight mandates.

USDA is expected to assume inspection duties for imported catfish and pangasius, a controversial transfer of authority from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that has repeatedly drawn the ire of industry associations and prominent political leaders as wasteful spending. The switch, first mandated as part of the 2008 Farm Bill that amended the Federal Meat Inspection Act, has yet to be implemented.

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) has been a vocal opponent of the move and on Friday alerted the media to the GAO report.

“For the seventh time, [GAO] has targeted the USDA Catfish regulation program as a waste and called for its removal,” NFI said. “Our research continues to find no other single government program targeted as many times by the GAO as the USDA catfish program.”

GAO’s report suggested that Congress consider repealing the provision that would shift inspections from FDA to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

“The 2014 Farm Bill instead modified these provisions to require the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Commissioner of FDA that would ensure that inspection of catfish conducted by FSIS and FDA are not duplicative. We maintain that such an MOU does not address the fundamental problem, which is that FSIS’s catfish program, if implemented, would result in duplication of activities and an inefficient use of taxpayer funds. Duplication would result if facilities that process both catfish and other seafood were inspected by both FSIS and FDA.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Friday tweeted that the USDA catfish program is “disgraceful” and a “wasteful use of taxpayer funds. We must repeal this duplicative prgm (sic).”


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