The USDA has released its final rule to establish an inspection program for U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish and catfish-like imports. Sought for years by American catfish farmers and consumer groups, the rule will ultimately require both U.S. farmers and countries exporting catfish and catfish-like products to the United States to meet safety standards set by the USDA.
Starting in March of 2016, both domestic catfish producers and importers will begin the process of inspection by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service in a similar fashion to meat and poultry producers. The Catfish Farmers of America (CFA), a trade association representing America's catfish farmers, applauded the decision and will work with the USDA on implementing the new program while also reviewing the lengthy, detailed new rule.
"We applaud Secretary Vilsack and his USDA team for finally releasing this rule," said Bari Cain, CFA President. "This effort has always been about food safety. After years of almost non-existent FDA inspection of imports, placing the health of consumers at risk, we are on the road to raising consumer confidence in the catfish products sold in our stores and our restaurants. We also want to express our gratitude to (Mississippi) Sen. Thad Cochran and all of the members of Congress who helped make this rule a reality."
The new rule finalizes the move of regulatory authority of all fish in the order of Siluriformes from the FDA to the USDA. Development of this new inspection rule was part of the 2014 farm bill, and implementation will begin in March of 2016.