Federal Issue Brief

 H.R. 4296/ S. 496, Catfish Inspection Repeal

AVMA Position:

No Action

Summary:

Introduced by Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4th) and Senator John McCain (AZ), H.R. 4296/S. 496 repeals a provision of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act establishing an inspection and grading program for catfish and other species of farm-raised fish shellfish.

Background:

  • The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act was passed in 2008 and is commonly known as the Farm Bill. FSIS released a proposed rule on February 24, 2011 on mandatory inspection of catfish and catfish products (Docket no. FSIS-2008-0031)
  • A May 2012 GAO report stated, “Congress should consider repealing provisions of the Farm Bill assigning USDA responsibility for catfish inspection.” (GAO-12-411)

Justification:

  • This issue is very politically charged, and appears to be more about trade issues than food safety. The potential benefit of improved food safety by moving oversight of inspection of catfish to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is unclear. 
  • The FSIS regulations address many additional requirements for ensuring safe seafood (e.g. more detailed inspection procedures for domestic and imported products, chemical and microbiological contaminants, product labeling, etc.). In addition, the FSIS catfish inspection regulations are modeled after the meat and poultry inspection regulations and programs.
  • AVMA policy on Food Safety supports stronger seafood inspection regulations and programs, such as those outlined in the FSIS proposed regulations.

Current Status:

H.R. 4296 was introduced 3/29/12 and referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry. '

S. 496 was introduced 3/7/11 and referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

AVMA Contact: 

Dr. Whitney Miller, Assistant Director, Governmental Relations Division, 202-289-3211.