After Seven-Year Battle, USDA Today Assumes Inspection Responsibilities from FDA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today announced the conclusion of a seven-year fight to improve food safety inspections of imported catfish with the U.S. Department of Agriculture officially assuming inspection responsibilities on Tuesday.

March 1 marks the end of the 90-day period between the issuance of the catfish inspection rule that formally transfers inspection responsibilities solely to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The development means the FSIS will begin deploying inspectors to domestic and foreign farm-raised catfish operations to ensure the safety of their products.

“I am confident that the Department of Agriculture inspection program will work to ensure that safe and nutritious catfish is being sold in this country, whether it is produced and processed here or abroad,” Cochran said. “The seven-year fight to reach this point has been a long haul, but well worth the effort.”

Officially switching inspection responsibilities to the FSIS begins an 18-month introductory period for domestic and international producers, who will all have to adhere to the same food safety standards. Cochran worked to successfully authorize the catfish inspection program in the 2008 farm bill and to reaffirm it in the 2014 farm bill.

The FSIS inspects 100 percent of imported farm-raised protein sources like poultry, pork, beef, and now catfish. The FSIS inspection process extends to overseas points of origin to monitor and prevent the importation of products containing substances banned for use by the United States. The FDA inspection process, by comparison, examined less than 2 percent of imported fish with limited testing for drugs and chemicals banned for use in the United States.