Vietnam, China, Thailand in line for FSIS approval on inspection equivalence for pangasius

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture will declare the fish inspection systems for siluriformes in Vietnam, China, Thailand are equivalent to U.S. standards.

The equivalency determination, which is subject to a 30-day period of public comment and a final decision by the FSIS before it is finalized, will allow species including pangasius and basa from those countries to enter the U.S. market. 

“All three countries have submitted documentation to FSIS to establish the equivalence of their [s]iluriformes fish inspection system and eligibility to export [s]iluriformes fish to the United States,” the USDA said in a 14 September constituent update. “FSIS reviewed the documentation submitted, conducted on-site audits of these countries, and concluded that, as implemented, the inspection systems are equivalent to that of the United States.”

SeafoodSource previously reported that FSIS inspectors visited Vietnam in May to carry out on-site inspections at pangasius-processing facilities in the country. Pangasius has faced higher barriers to entry into the United States as a result of it being placed under a separate seafood inspection program as most other seafood entering the U.S., which is inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In an email sent to its members, the National Fisheries Institute, the trade group representing the U.S. seafood industry, said the FSIS declaration “will mean that catfish from [Vietnam, China, and Thailand] will be permitted to enter the U.S. market for the indefinite future.”

However, the NFI warned that efforts may be underway in Washington D.C. to continue to impede pangasius from Vietnam and other Asian countries from entering the U.S.

“NFI anticipates that proponents of blocking catfish and catfish-like species from the U.S. market will work in the regulatory and legislative processes to stop or delay this proposal from taking effect,” the organization said. “NFI will keep all Members informed of activity on this breaking development.”

In February 2018, Vietnam filed an official complaint with the World Trade Organization against the United States, claiming the U.S. Department of Agriculture program targeting catfish inspections imposes illegal barriers to trade. The Southeast Asian nation is also seeking bilateral talks to resolve the issue. 

And pangasius exporters in Vietnam, the world’s largest producer of the species, have also faced unprecedented antidumping rates levied by the U.S. in May.


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