USDA inspections send another shipment of Asian fish packing

Those still doubting the need for the USDA catfish inspection program might want to check the latest.

In August, yet another shipment of Vietnamese fish bound for our shores was rejected after it was found to be contaminated with malachite green. Malachite green, a suspected carcinogen, is banned for animal use in the United States and its discovery kept 40,000 pounds of fish off dinner plates.

The August rejection was only the latest in a string of rejections since the USDA took over inspections from the FDA in April. Compared to the FDA program, which found problems and turned away only a minute amount of foreign seafood over years, the USDA’s efforts have been a massive success.

And, yet, Congress in its rapidly diminishing wisdom is still attempting to place inspections back in the hands of the FDA. Amidst cries of “too expensive!” and “duplicative programs!” and the like, the Senate has already moved to do the deed, passing the final killing stroke over to the House. With the House now back in session, it is unknown if this latest rejection of tainted fish will sway enough minds to keep the USDA program going.

Hopefully, before any vote they’ll have access to more than seafood import lobbyists. They might start with an updated review of Oceana’s 2014 seafood fraud studies, which found fish fraud on every continent except Antarctica.

Further, another of the study’s lowlights is around 20 percent of “more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled, on average.”

Asian catfish is one of three species most often mislabeled. “Specifically, farmed Asian catfish was sold as 18 different types of higher-value fish.”

And just to whet your appetite that extra little bit: “More than half (58 percent) of the samples substituted for other seafood posed a species-specific health risk to consumers, meaning that consumers could be eating fish that could make them sick.”

That’s an ugly list of talking points. Maybe instead of doing away with the USDA inspections program, Congress should consider appropriating money to help export its like around the world.

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