Miss. Senator Has Pressed Since 2008 Farm Bill for Rigorous Inspection System to Assure Food Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today said he will continue to work to see that federal agencies implement a final rule published Wednesday to give the U. S. Department of Agriculture inspection responsibilities for imported and domestic catfish offered to American consumers.

The issuance of the final rule culminates a more than seven-year effort by Cochran to transfer inspection responsibilities to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A FSIS inspection program was first authorized in the 2008 farm bill and reaffirmed in the 2014 farm bill.

“I will continue work to see that this new catfish inspection program is implemented as rapidly as possible. The point of this process has been to ensure that the farm-raised catfish served to American families is safe and nutritious. The USDA is in the best position to get this done,” Cochran said. “I am thankful this rule has been published, although it should not have taken seven years.”

The catfish inspection rule will become effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register on Dec. 2 and will include an 18-month introductory period for domestic and international producers.

The rule allows the FSIS to begin implementation of a food safety inspection program that will require all catfish producers and processors, both domestic and foreign, to abide by the same food safety standards. The USDA crafted the rule to comply with the World Trade Organization Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement.

This system would replace an FDA inspection process that examines less than 2 percent of the fish imported into the United States, including limited tests for unapproved drugs and chemicals used by producers in developing countries to enhance yields and address diseases associated with overcrowded catfish ponds. All catfish inspection responsibilities will be transferred to and not shared with the USDA.

Cochran pushed for a USDA-led process, which already inspects 100 percent of imported farm-raised protein sources like poultry, pork and beef. 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.