News 170 views last update:7 Aug 2012

US raises concern over Chinese imports

As imported Chinese wheat reportedly takes the blame for the recent deaths of dozens of American pets, new concerns have risen over the safety of Asian-grown catfish imported to the United States for human consumption reports Fish Farmer magazine.

US Government officials and US Farm-Raised Catfish producers have long been cautious of imported Asian catfish-like species that continue to flood our nation's seafood industry. Little, if any, government regulation enables Asian importers to ship food products, such as catfish or wheat, with potentially dangerous additives into the US.

"This pet food incident has shined a light on an issue that already exists, and that is the fact that there are many contaminated products coming from China, not just wheat" says Dick Stevens, president of Consolidated Catfish Companies, a catfish processor based in Isola, Miss. Roger Barlow, executive vice president of Catfish Farmers of America, referred to federal reports over the last several months that show many shipments of catfish-like products from China and Vietnam had been refused entry into the US because of banned and potentially dangerous chemicals and antibiotics found in the fish.

"Imports of Chinese catfish are increasing, with overall Asian import numbers for February 2007 up some 456%, and those from China up 1,055%. The concern now is that tainted imported catfish may be reaching consumers' dinner tables" says Barlow.
According to a recent report by the Associated Press, the FDA has sharply reduced its inspections of foreign food and today physically examines only 1.3% of all food imported into the United States. According to one American catfish farmer, this is unacceptable.
"I don't understand how unregulated, imported food products can continue to be offered to the public," said George Smelley, a catfish farmer and processor with operations in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. "My concern is that the current pet food problem could be repeated on the human level with citizens that are consuming mostly poorly inspected imported food products."

Federal legislation enacted in 2002 established Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requiring grocery stores to list where products are grown. However, no such requirement exists for the restaurant industry, which accounts for more than 70% of catfish consumption - both imported and domestic. Consumers are encouraged to look for the US Farm-Raised Catfish seal in grocery stores and to demand to know where their fish is from at restaurants.

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