The US Senate voted 55-43 in support of Senate Resolution 28 last week. The resolution would move the responsibility back to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
ASPA said FDA does not have adequate resources to provide vigorous inspection and only inspects 1-2% of imported seafood.
FDA’s low inspection rates and the use of illegal chemicals in foreign raised seafood provided the impetus to move catfish inspection to USDA, said the association.
Supporters of the resolution claim it is duplicative but opponents argue the FDA ceased all catfish inspections in March this year.
Dr David Veal, ASPA executive director, said he ‘couldn’t understand’ how a senator could vote to support interests of the catfish importing community over the health and safety of Americans.
“USDA estimates the cost of the catfish inspection program at approximately $1.1m per year. That is a drop in the bucket, and worth every cent if it prevents even one single cancer.
“The Senators voting for this resolution have placed the economic interests of the catfish import community above the health and safety of the American consumer.”
The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) said rather than addressing a threat to the food supply, the USDA’s catfish program serves as a barrier to free trade.
“It could take USDA years to certify overseas facilities and regulatory regimes that already meet FDA standards. The program, in effect, implements a ban on foreign catfish species, raising costs for consumers and undermining our relationships abroad,” it added.
ASPA urged opposition to the action in the House of Representatives.