My post yesterday about the politics of catfish inspection inspired comments that I need to better appreciate the superiority of USDA’s import safety program, which requires this checklist for steps that must be taken by importers of meat, poultry, or processed egg products:
It’s not surprising if USDA’s import safety system is better than the FDA’s. USDA gets $14 million a year to run its currently non-operating catfish inspection system. The FDA gets $700,000 and, according to the Government Accountability Office, has managed pretty well with it (see yesterday’s post).
Definition is also an issue. USDA rules apply to all catfish species. But to protect American catfish producers, the FDA defined catfish as the North American species. But Vietnam produces different species, which makes catfish inspection even weirder.
Although FDA has had some problems with seafood inspection, it is generally responsible for dealing with fish safety and has had seafood HACCP requirements in place since the mid-1990s. The USDA does not have authority over fish; it is responsible for the safety of meat and poultry.
Why should catfish be an exception?
Why are we even talking about which agency should be in charge of inspecting catfish?
If the politic fuss over catfish inspection reveals anything, it is why we so badly need a single food safety agency—one that combines and integrates the food safety functions of USDA and FDA—to ensure the safety of the American food supply.
Addition, November 28: Members of Congress urge repeal of the USDA’s catfish inspection program.