May 16, 2011
CONTACT: Chris Gallegos (202) 224-6414


Report Says 0.1 Percent of Imported Seafood Inspected by FDA in 2009 for Drug Residues

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A critical Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the inspection of seafood imported into the United States gives credence to the argument that the federal government must do more to protect American consumers, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said today.

The GAO today released a report titled “Seafood Safety: FDA Needs to Improve Oversight of Imported Seafood and Better Leverage Limited Resources,” that provides an unfavorable assessment of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) efforts to inspect imported seafood.

“The GAO has confirmed what many of us have maintained for some time: that the existing federal program to inspect imported seafood is so limited that it is insufficient and ineffective,” Cochran said.

“The need for better oversight of imported seafood is among the reasons why Congress wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to decisively move forward with new federal safety standards for foreign catfish imports,” he said.

The GAO report faults the FDA’s program for ensuring the safety of seafood imports against residues of drugs used by foreign aquaculture operations. Drugs, like antibiotics, can be used to fight bacterial inspections in aquaculture. The FDA is responsible for certifying the safety of seafood against residues from unapproved drugs.

The GAO report notes that FDA inspectors rely on reviewing records and generally do not visit foreign aquaculture farms or laboratories to verify U.S. safety standards. The report cites the FDA’s limited sampling program and highlights that only seven of 13 FDA laboratories engage in seafood safety inspections. It states that the FDA tested about 0.1 percent of all imported seafood products for drug residues in FY2009.

Cochran sponsored a requirement in the 2008 Farm Bill that directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to inspect catfish and catfish products, as well as the conditions under which the fish are raised and transported. A proposed USDA rule issued in February did not resolve the definition of which catfish or related fish types to which the federal rule would apply.

A public comment period on a USDA proposed rule on the catfish issue is set to expire at midnight June 24. The FSIS will conduct a public meeting on the catfish rule in Washington, D.C., on May 24, followed by a second meeting on Thursday, May 26, in Stoneville, Miss. (details below)

Related links:

GAO Seafood Safety: FDA Needs to Improve Oversight of Imported Seafood and Better Leverage Limited Resources

– For a PDF of the Report, click here.

– For a text version of the Report, click here.

– For the Report Summary, click here.

USDA FSIS Public Comment Period on Catfish Inspections

The FSIS meeting in Washington, DC is scheduled for May 24, 2011 from 9 a.m. to noon in the USDA Jefferson Auditorium (South Building), 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250. Attendees must provide a photo ID to enter the building, and they should enter the building via Wing 5 or 7 on 14th Street.

The FSIS meeting in Stoneville is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon in the Charles Capps Center at the Delta Research and Extension Center of the Mississippi State University. The Capps Center is located at 82 Stoneville Road, Stoneville, Miss. 38776.

For additional information and registration details for the May 26 meeting, visit this link or call Joan Lindenberger, FSIS Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education, (202) 720-6755, or by e-mail at

– For the FSIS Proposed Rule & Documents, click here.

– For the FSIS Office of Catfish Inspection, click here.