Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.—“Today, the Senate passed a resolution of Congressional disapproval and nullification, under the Congressional Review Act, of the rule that created a mandatory inspection program for catfish. Nullifying this rule would roll back long overdue progress towards providing consumers some assurance that catfish sold in the United States meets basic safety standards.
“Congress transferred authority for the safety of catfish from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service in the 2008 Farm Bill. Ever since, the imported catfish industry has tried to derail this transfer to allow imports to continue under the weaker FDA inspection system.
“Catfish farming practices in foreign countries are very different from those used by domestic producers, and the food safety systems in many exporting countries are far weaker than U.S. standards. The FDA’s oversight of this industry was not able to adequately address the public health threats presented by imported catfish, including illegal levels of drug and chemical residues. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that in 2011, the FDA tested less than 0.1 percent of all imported seafood products for drug residues. But testing data from both FDA and USDA published in 2015 revealed that 9 percent of imported catfish products tested positive for the banned antimicrobial chemical malachite green, and 2 percent tested positive for the banned chemical gentian violet.
“USDA’s inspection program relies on continuous government inspection and applies to both domestic and imported products. This is a more protective system for consumers. USDA has just begun its inspection program, but in just the last two weeks, import inspections have led to the detention of two shipments of catfish from Vietnam that are adulterated with gentian violet, malachite green, enrofloxacin and fluoroquinolone, substances that are illegal under U.S. regulations.
“The House must not follow the Senate’s misguided resolution to revert back to FDA oversight of catfish safety.”
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, [email protected].