Mandatory USDA catfish inspections to start March 2016.

  • FDA regulates the majority of the U.S. food supply, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) exercises jurisdiction over meat, poultry, and egg products.  Although FDA historically has regulated fish and fishery products, the 2008 Farm Bill required FDA to divest its authority over the inspection of Siluriformes fish (including catfish) to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).
  • On November 25, 2015, FSIS issued a final rule to establish an inspection program for domestically-raised and imported Siluriformes fish.  As of the March 2016 effective date, all fish in this category will shift from FDA’s to FSIS’s jurisdiction.  The rule establishes the system by which FSIS will:  (1) conduct inspections at domestic establishments that slaughter and process Siluriformes fish and (2) re-inspect and conduct species and residue sampling on imported Siluriformes fish shipments.
  • The upcoming catfish inspection program is controversial, with some industry stakeholders asserting that USDA inspection will provide a marketplace advantage, while others believe it is a waste of regulatory and taxpayer resources.  Still others suggest that the catfish inspection program represents an illegal trade barrier that could serve as fodder for a costly future dispute before the World Trade Organization (WTO).