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New GAO Report Boosts Kerry-McCain Argument on Catfish Inspection

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) today lauded a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found catfish should not be regulated under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA.) A previously proposed Catfish Inspection Office would create duplicative regulation on local fishermen and seafood processors by regulating catfish under both the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.)

Next week, Senators Kerry and McCain plan to offer an amendment to the Agriculture Reform Food and Jobs Act of 2012, more commonly known as the "Farm Bill," that would eliminate the Catfish Inspection Office.

"Two duplicative and competing sets of regulations is a job killer that has nothing to do with food safety and would hurt seafood processors from Gloucester to New Bedford," said Sen. Kerry. "Don't take our word for it. Today's new GAO report is a nonpartisan, definitive finding that regulating catfish under the USDA has no benefit and only does harm to our industry. Senator McCain and I plan to offer an amendment to eliminate the Catfish Inspection Office and prevent this trainwreck before it ever happens."

"This GAO report proves that the USDA catfish office offers no legitimate food safety benefit," said Sen. McCain. "The entire program is merely an underhanded way of restricting Asian catfish imports and forcing American consumers to pay higher prices for domestic catfish. The report thoroughly beats back the notion that we need a whole new office inside USDA to inspect catfish, which FDA already does."

Today's new GAO report found that dual regulation under the FDA and the USDA was excessive and redundant, stating that:

First, the program requires implementation of hazard analysis plans that are essentially the same as FDA's hazard analysis requirements;
Second, if the program is implemented, as many as three agencies--FDA, FSIS, and NMFS--could inspect facilities that process both catfish and other types of seafood; and
Third, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gives FDA authority to establish a system to accredit third party auditors, including foreign governments, to certify imported seafood meets FDA regulatory requirements. FDA officials stated that this new authority complements FDA's existing authority to obtain assurances about the safety of seafood exports from countries with food safety systems FDA determined are comparable to the United States.

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