A new food safety Web site promoting tougher inspections and regulation of imported and domestic catfish was launched Monday, May 24, at safecatfish.com.
The Web site exposes the health and safety dangers to American consumers created by the Food and Drug Administration’s weak inspection system for imported seafood.
The site includes a graphic new investigative report, “Dirty Waters, Dangerous Fish,” which shows current evidence of unsafe catfish farming practices along the polluted and contaminated Mekong River in Vietnam.
Currently the FDA, which is responsible for the inspection of catfish and other seafood, inspects only 2 percent of the 5.2 billion pounds of seafood imported into the United States from foreign countries, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Among the 2 percent of seafood imports from Vietnam inspected by the FDA during a recent four-year period, nearly one in every five shipments was found to contain catfish and other seafood products contaminated with potentially deadly chemicals or drugs that are banned by the United States in farm-raised catfish, according to FDA records.
Congress voted two years ago to move catfish inspections and regulation from the FDA to USDA. The food safety law has become entangled in bureaucratic red tape, and is now threatened by yet more delays.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is holding up the law over concerns that protecting U.S. consumers could harm Vietnamese fish farmers and U.S.-Vietnamese trade relations.
The new Web site will post a series of letters between congressional offices and the federal agencies involved in enforcing the law that reveal political efforts to dilute important food safety protections.
The political attempts to derail the law comes as the amount of catfish imported to the United States from Vietnam is increasing dramatically. Vietnamese catfish imports have quadrupled in the past five years from 19 million pounds in 2004 to 85 million in 2009, according to U.S. government figures.
The Web site also provides links to numerous Vietnamese and other Asian news media accounts of Vietnamese government officials warning their own catfish farmers to improve farm safety practices, halt the use of drugs banned in other countries and upgrade the quality of the water used in their catfish ponds.