The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finalized a rule that acts to establish an inspection program for U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish and catfish-like imports. The rule, which will ultimately require producers in the U.S. and countries that export catfish and catfish-like products to the U.S. to meet safety standards set by the USDA, has been sought after for years by American catfish farmers and consumer groups.
Once the rule goes into effect in March of 2016, both domestic catfish producers and importers will begin the process of inspection by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in a similar fashion to meat and poultry producers. The Catfish Farmers of America (CFA), a trade association representing America’s catfish farmers, have applauded the USDA’s decision. CFA plans to be involved with the implementation of the rule, working with the USDA on developing the new program while also reviewing the lengthy, detailed new rule.
“We applaud Secretary Vilsack and his USDA team for finally releasing this rule,” CFA President Bari Cain said. “This effort has always been about food safety. After years of almost non-existent FDA inspection of imports, placing the health of consumers at risk, we are on the road to raising consumer confidence in the catfish products sold in our stores and our restaurants. We also want to express our gratitude to Sen. Thad Cochran and all of the Members of Congress who helped make this rule a reality.”
The new rule finalizes the move of regulatory authority of all fish in the order of Siluriformes from the FDA to the USDA. Development of this new inspection rule was part of the 2014 Farm Bill, and implementation will begin in March of 2016. The full USDA rulecan be viewed here.