It’s not often that a segment of U.S. agriculture actually asks the government for more regulation. But that’s exactly what U.S. catfish producers are doing to combat the importation of suspect catfish from Vietnam and China.
The floods of these cheap Asian imports, which are often raised in revoltingly unsanitary conditions, have severely undercut the U.S. catfish market. This along with increased feed costs and an overall downturn in the domestic economy, has the industry reeling. One result – since 2001, catfish acres in the Mississippi delta have decreased 43 percent, going from 113,000 acres to 64,000 acres in 2010.
In October, the Catfish Farmers of America decided to cast a bigger net across the issue by launching a national television campaign urging President Obama to implement a law approved by Congress more than two years ago requiring tough new USDA inspections and regulation of all catfish sold in America.
The law transfers the inspection and regulation of catfish from the FDA to the USDA, which has more stringent inspection and safety programs. Congress approved the law after the Government Accountability Office reported that the FDA inspects only 2 percent of all seafood imported into the United States.
“Congress voted more than two years ago to require USDA oversight of all catfish – imported and domestic,” said Joey Lowery, president of the Catfish Farmers of America. “President Obama and his administration have refused to implement the law and safeguard our families.”
The television messages began airing on CNN, Fox and MSNBC cable television networks last month. The commercials also can be viewed at www.SafeCatfish.com. A video depicting catfish production along the polluted Mekong River in Vietnam can also be viewed at this site.
“For U.S. catfish farmers, food safety is our highest priority and we welcome stricter USDA oversight of both our domestic catfish and imported catfish,” said Lowery. “Whether a food safety incident results from domestic or foreign fish, the impact is the same: Consumer confidence in all catfish plummets.”
According to CFA, nearly one-third of all catfish sold in America is imported from Vietnam and China, “where fish farming environments are far less controlled and the incidence of contamination is much greater than in the United States.
“Both federal and state governments have found serious health risks in imported catfish which contain chemicals, pollutants and antibiotics that are banned for use in fish farming in the United States.”
According to CFA, U.S. farm-raised catfish are some of the healthiest and safest fish in the world, raised in ponds filled with pure, fresh water, and fed a diet of high-protein food pellets, made from a mixture of soybeans, corn, wheat vitamins and minerals.
American citizens can do their part too. When you’re shopping or dining, look for the seal that says, U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish.