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USDA establishing catfish inspection program

FSIS program fulfills requirement of 2014 farm bill by creating inspection program for Siluriformes fish, including catfish.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) released Nov. 25 a final rule establishing an inspection program for fish under the order Siluriformes, including catfish. The final rule, which applies to both domestically-raised and imported Siluriformes fish, was developed in order to implement provisions required by the 2014 farm bill. The rule will become effective in March 2016, 90 days after it publishes in the Federal Register.

“FSIS is committed to a smooth and gradual introduction to the new inspection program, which was mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill,” said Al Almanza, USDA deputy under secretary for food safety. “The agency will conduct extensive outreach to domestic industry and international partners so that they fully understand FSIS’ requirements prior to full implementation.”

The March 2016 effective date of the rule begins an 18-month transitional implementation period for both domestic and international producers. On the March 2016 effective date, all Siluriformes fish, including catfish, will be under the regulatory jurisdiction of FSIS and no longer regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Before the effective date of the final rule, countries currently exporting product to the U.S. that wish to continue doing so must provide a list of establishments that currently export, as well as written documentation of their regulatory authority and compliance with existing FDA import requirements.

During the transitional period, FSIS will conduct inspection during all hours of operation at domestic establishments that slaughter and process Siluriformes fish, similar to inspection provided at meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities, while also providing the establishments with close guidance to ensure that they understand FSIS’ requirements. During this time, inspection program personnel will also be assigned to visit domestic Siluriformes fish processing establishments, at least once per quarter, USDA said.

During the 18-month transitional period, FSIS will re-inspect and conduct species and residue sampling on imported Siluriformes fish shipments at least quarterly at U.S. import establishments on a random basis. Also, during the transitional period, countries wishing to continue exporting product to the U.S. after the transitional period must apply for an equivalency determination.

Following the18-month transitional period, inspection program personnel will continue to be assigned to conduct inspection during all hours of operation at domestic slaughter and processing establishments, and at least once per shift at processing-only establishments, which is similar to requirements for other food products that FSIS regulates. Also beginning at the end of the 18-month transitional period, FSIS will re-inspect and conduct species and residue tests on all incoming shipments.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. Regulations applying to the Siluriformes fish industry are adapted under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, as required by law under the 2014 Farm Bill.

The final rule can be found online at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/interim-and-final-rules.

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