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Catfish Inspection Program Could Be Gutted

Opponents of Senate Joint Resolution 28 say Americans' health is at risk if a fish inspection program ends. (Veronica Carter)
Opponents of Senate Joint Resolution 28 say Americans' health is at risk if a fish inspection program ends. (Veronica Carter)
June 10, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The House could vote soon on a plan to scrap a catfish-inspection program.

Senators approved Joint Resolution 28 last month, which would overturn the U.S. Department of Agriculture program mandated by the federal Farm Bill. It would have the Food and Drug Administration take back the duty of inspecting fish imported from other countries.

Catfish Farmers of America spokesman Chad Causey said the USDA inspection program would look for problems such as fish tainted with carcinogens or antibiotics. He said this country has worked hard to set food-safety standards, and added that those standards also should be applied to products coming in from other countries.

"There is imported product that, because of the Swiss cheese laws of labeling in this country, is sold to be like catfish, or to be sold as catfish in some cases even though it is not," he said.

The National Fisheries Institute backs SJR 28, calling our current inspection program the poster child for government waste. It has said it's the start of a process to save taxpayers' money, eliminate duplication of regulations for small businesses and ensure markets remain open for American farmers.

Causey said a food-safety scare that originates from a foreign import will damage the entire industry.

"If people get sick, they won't discriminate because it's very, very difficult to know what you're eating when you order it at a restaurant or if you even get it in a grocery store," he said. "It's not the easiest thing in the world to know where it's coming from."

Causey said letting in imports of potentially problem fish from Asia also could hurt the economy. SJR 28 is being opposed by a group of U.S. representatives who have sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, asking that the House not take up the issue, thereby leaving the USDA inspection program in place.

Details of SJR 28 are online at congress.gov.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD