Cochran: USDA & FDA Know There’s No Duplication. Why Don’t Opponents Of Catfish Inspection Program?

Senator Stresses USDA Alone Responsible for Ensuring Safe Imports Under Inspection Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today continued his defense of a catfish inspection program by drawing attention to a federal agency agreement that disproves arguments that the new inspection program will be a duplicative.

To make his point, Cochran on Wednesday emphasized an April 30, 2014, memorandum of understanding, or MOU, signed between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that adheres to a 2014 farm bill directive for the agencies to clarify and differentiate their new inspection responsibilities.

Cochran is fighting for the authorized USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) catfish inspection program established in the 2008 farm bill, continuing to reinforce that the new program will be a more robust, efficient and affordable instrument for ensuring the safety of imported catfish served to American families. An amendment filed to a pending Senate trade promotion bill would terminate the USDA program.

“The catfish program will enhance consumer safety, but it will not duplicate activities between federal agencies. Catfish inspection responsibilities will be transferred to the Department of Agriculture alone and not shared with any other agency,” said Cochran in battling the oft-repeated and incorrect opinion that the USDA effort would create unnecessary duplication of efforts by separate government agencies.

“The facts couldn’t be any plainer. There will be no duplication of effort, no matter how many times that falsehood is repeated by the defenders of the existing minimal U.S. standards for certifying the safety of catfish imports,” Cochran said.

On May 8, 2015, the Secretary of Agriculture provided the following in a letter to Senate and House agriculture appropriations committees: “As previously reported, FSIS and FDA completed and signed the MOU on April 30, 2014. The agencies believe the MOU will ensure that inspection oversight will be non-duplicative and that requirements for domestic and foreign Siluriformes products will be met in accordance with the intent of Congress.”

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture is preparing its final rule on the mandatory inspection of domestic and imported catfish, which is intended to ensure that all catfish for consumption in the United States is safe and free of unapproved drugs,” Cochran said.

Cochran and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) on Tuesday together argued on the Senate floor that the USDA program should be implemented to ensure the safety of catfish imported to U.S. markets and criticized government directives to the FSIS to discount the risks of cancer and heavy metal exposure in imported catfish products. (