JACKSON, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In letters sent last week to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, three of the nation’s largest food safety watchdog groups and a U.S. Congressman voiced their support for USDA inspections for domestic and imported catfish species, as mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill.
The first letter was sent jointly by the Consumer Federation of America, the largest consumer group in the United States; Food and Water Watch, the largest public interest food watchdog group; and Safe Tables Our Priority, a coalition of consumer and food safety advocates, on July 23, 2009.
Excerpts from the jointly signed letter:
“We hope you will use the new responsibility given to the USDA by the 2008 Farm Bill to design a program that requires specific safety standards for both domestic and imported catfish, as the agency currently does for meat and poultry,” the letter stated, speaking to Sec. Vilsack.
“Consumers have good reason to demand that imported catfish be raised and processed under similar safety standards as domestic catfish. Since June 1, 2008, the FDA has rejected catfish products imported from China, Thailand and Vietnam a total of thirty one times. Thailand was responsible for two refusals, China was responsible for thirteen, and Vietnamese catfish products were rejected a total of sixteen times.
“The intent of Congress in creating this new inspection program for catfish was to assure that catfish was safely produced and processed for consumers. Since the majority of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported, it is crucial that any new standards and inspection program for catfish apply to both domestic and imported species.”
In a separate letter to Sec. Vilsack from Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, the lawmaker recalls a trip to tour Vietnamese seafood processing facilities in December 2008, where he noted the aquaculture conditions were less than favorable and the fish were unfit for American consumption.
Excerpts from Congressman Boswell’s letter:
“Currently there is no mandate to inspect or certify that foreign seafood plants meet standards equivalent to those in the United States, though such mandates exist for other meat proteins,” Boswell stated in his letter to Sec. Vilsack.
“During my most recent trip to the Mekong Delta, I saw the putrid conditions in which these fish are raised. I saw raw sewage and drainage pipes leading directly into the Mekong Delta upstream from where the fish farms are located.
“The FDA only voluntarily inspects less than one percent of total food imports and less than two percent of seafood from foreign plants. This is frightening and unacceptable.”
Unedited copies of both letters are attached to this press release. For more information about the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry and its support of USDA inspections for catfish, visit UScatfish.com.
Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=6018347&lang=en