Letter to the editor:

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

To the Editor:

While many accusations have been leveled at the domestic catfish industry and its pursuit of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections, the intent of the U.S. catfish industry has always been very clear – consumer safety.

U.S. consumers currently believe that their seafood is subject to the same rigorous inspection standards as those imposed on meat and poultry products. However, that is not the case under the existing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, and the domestic catfish industry is dedicated to fighting for increased consumer food safety.

Seafood consumption in the United States now exceeds 4.9 billion pounds annually. Of this amount, over 83% is imported, and less than one percent of our seafood imports ever sees an inspector. Furthermore, only a fraction of that amount is ever tested for contamination from illegal drugs and chemicals.

It is of great concern that inspections by the Canadian government along the U.S. border and testing by the agriculture departments of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi have found dangerous and illegal drugs and chemicals in Asian fish imports that had already been cleared by the FDA. To say that the FDA leaves U.S. consumers vulnerable is an understatement.

The first and foremost responsibility of the elected officials of this country is to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens. The assurance that the food we eat is safe should be an integral part of that responsibility. Taking action to eliminate any threat to the safety of the American public, including food safety, should be non-negotiable and off-the-table in any political arena.

Let’s hope our elected officials do the right thing.

Joey Lowery

President, Catfish Farmers of America

Indianola, Miss.