Life is Like Imported Catfish: You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get
U.S. catfish farmers have been doing something almost unprecedented in the annals of the food industry — they have been asking for more regulation. In case you’re unsure of how serious they are, the Catfish Farmers of America launched a nationally televised ad campaign that asks President Obama to implement a new USDA program to inspect all catfish sold in the U.S.
Currently, catfish is regulated by the FDA, which only inspects two percent of all imported seafood and hasn’t racked up the best record lately when it comes to preventing food safety problems.
U.S. catfish farmers want their catch to be regulated by the USDA instead, a move that was approved by Congress more than two years ago, but that the Obama Administration has yet to put the program into effect. The switch to USDA will mean tougher inspections for both domestic and imported catfish, which is exactly why the Catfish Farmers of America are asking to make it official: they want to ensure that all catfish will be safe.
It’s important for consumers to distinguish between U.S.-farmed and imported catfish. The reason? Close to one-third of catfish imports are from Vietnam and China where food safety standards are not as high as here in the U.S., resulting in a higher risk of food contamination, as well as other health risks due to their use of antibiotics and other pollutants. Even the very definition of a catfish is up for grabs in Vietnam and China since they often export species of catfish that are more like distant cousins of the catfish than immediate family.
Usually, government agencies buckle under industry pressure to do the wrong thing. Let’s hope this time the Obama Administration buckles under pressure to do the right thing.