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USDA Announces Proposed FSIS Catfish Rule

24 February 2011

US - The US Department Agriculture (USDA) has announced a proposed rule requiring inspection of catfish and catfish products by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). USDA is proposing these regulations to implement provisions as required by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the 2008 Farm Bill.

The 2008 Farm Bill amended the Federal Meat Inspection Act making catfish an amenable species under the Act, thereby requiring that all catfish undergo inspection by FSIS. In addition, the Secretary must take into account the conditions under which catfish are raised and transported to processing establishments as part of the new inspection programme.

The 2008 Farm Bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to define the term "catfish" for this new inspection programme. The proposed rule provides two options for the definition of catfish and seeks public comment on the issue. One option is the current labeling definition in the 2002 Farm Bill, which includes all species in the family Ictaluridae. The other option is to define catfish as all species in the order Siluriformes, including the three families typically found in human food channels, including Ictaluridae, Pangasiidae, and Clariidae.

The proposed rule describes the new requirements that will apply to catfish produced in or imported to the United States. Among these requirements is that products labeled as "catfish" must bear either the FSIS mark of inspection or a mark of inspection from the country from which it was exported.

The proposed rule also describes how FSIS will inspect US catfish farms as well as transportation from farms to processing establishments, as required under the 2008 Farm Bill. In this regard, FSIS will focus on factors affecting the safety of the product being produced, such as water quality and feed.

The proposed rule anticipates a transition period during which domestic and international operations will come into compliance with the catfish inspection programme. Once the catfish inspection program rules are issued in final form, FSIS will follow-up by announcing the implementation dates for key provisions in the rule.

Comments must be received on or before June 24, 2011, and may be submitted per the following: through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov; by mail to the US Department of Agriculture, FSIS Docket Clerk, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Mailstop 5272, Beltsville, MD 20705; or by e-mail to fsis.regulationscomments@fsis.usda.gov. All comments must identify FSIS and docket number FSIS-2008-0031. Comments will be available for viewing on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/proposed_rules/index.asp. In addition to a public comment period, FSIS intends to hold public meetings on the proposed rule, which will be announced at a later date.

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