WASHINGTON – Earlier this week, the Senate voted in favor of S.J.Res. 28, a Congressional Review Act resolution that would remove a catfish inspection program from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) jurisdiction back to the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Today, Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) joined Representatives Terri Sewell (AL-07), Rick Crawford (Ar-01), Frank Lucas (OK-03), French Hill (AR-02), Ralph Abraham (LA-05), Steve Womack (AR-03), Trent Kelly (MS-01), Gregg Harper (MS-03), Charles Boustany (LA-03), Martha Roby (Al-02), Garrett Graves (LA-06), Steven Palazzo (MS-04), Ted Yoho (FL-03), Mike Rogers (MI-08), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Scott Desjarlais (TN-04), Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Stephen Fincher (TN-08), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), and Bradley Byrne (Al-01) in sending a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging that the House not take up S.J. Res. 28.
Overwhelming evidence suggests that imported catfish and catfish-like products represent a significant food safety threat to the American public. Accordingly, Congress transferred inspection authority from the FDA to the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).
The Members wrote in the letter:
“We believe that the Senate’s action to nullify the catfish inspection program shortly after the program has been implemented is irresponsible and disregards overwhelming evidence proving that imported catfish represents a significant food safety threat to U.S. consumers.”
The catfish inspection program, implemented just recently, is critical to preventing adulterated catfish and catfish-like products from entering the U.S. food supply. Mere days after USDA began inspecting imported shipments of catfish, the agency found elevated amounts of Malachite Green and Crystal Violet, two banned and dangerous carcinogens. Despite the USDA’s findings and the recent vindication of the program, opponents in the Senate are still attempting to undo years of work and research.
Arguments made by opponents are misguided and unfounded. First, USDA projects the program will cost only $1.1 million annually to implement, a small price to pay to protect the food supply. Second, there is no duplication as FDA no longer inspects catfish, and all inspection activities have been transferred pursuant to provisions in the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills. Finally, the rule simply requires foreign suppliers to meet an equivalent safety standard as our domestic producers, a policy that allows all marker participants to compete on a level playing field.