Congress considers ending USDA catfish inspection program.

  • As previously covered on this blog, in the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress required FDA to divest its authority over the inspection of Siluriformes fish (including catfish) to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).  FSIS issued a final rule to establish the inspection program in November 2015 and FDA announced the completion of its transfer of the program to FSIS in May 2016.
  • Barely weeks after the long-awaited transfer took place, the Senate voted to shut down the inspection program.  If the relevant Joint Resolution is approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law, the FSIS catfish inspection program would be over almost as soon as it began.  Inspections presumably would revert back to FDA.
  • The issue is likely to be contested, as indicated by a letter from a bipartisan congressional group to Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi, urging the House not to approve the Joint Resolution, and stating that FDA’s inspection regime had been inadequate and conducted inspections on only 0.2% of imported catfish species.  It remains to be seen how the House will vote, but in the meantime, this long-awaited and long-debated inspection program continues to generate controversy.