USDA will hold two public comment meetings on proposed mandatory catfish inspection rule

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing that it will hold 2 public meeting to receive comments on the proposed regulation ti implement a program for mandatory inspection of catfish and catfish products.

The proposed rule provides for a transition period during which domestic and international operations would come into compliance with the catfish inspection program. Comments are requested regarding the transition phases and their duration. FSIS plans to announce in the final rule the implementation dates for each transition phase.

In addition, FSIS is soliciting comments on the scope of the proposed regulations and, in particular, whether to define catfish as members of the order Siluriformes or to limit the definition to members of the family Ictaluridae.

The proposed rule was published February 24, 2011 in the Federal Register .

The first meeting will be held in Washington, DC, on May 24, 2011; 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EDT, in the USDA Jefferson Auditorium (South Building), 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250.

The second meeting will be held in Stoneville, Mississippi, on May 26, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., in the Charles Capp Center at the Delta Research andExtension Center of the Mississippi State University.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: U.S. catfish processors, exporters, and importers are currently subject to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations for seafood (9 CFR part 123), including catfish, and to other requirements under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.). The National Marine Fisheries Service conducts voluntary, fee-for-service inspection and certification programs for catfish under provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Act (7 U.S.C. 1622, 1624) and regulations implementing that Act (50 CFR part 260).

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-246, SEC 10016(b)), known as the 2008 Farm Bill, amended the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) to provide that ‘catfish, as defined by the Secretary,’ is a species amenable to the FMIA (21 U.S.C. 601 (w)(2)) and amended the FMIA in other ways to provide for catfish inspection. FSIS, the Agency that administers the FMIA, has proposed regulations to implement the Farm Bill amendments of the FMIA that require inspection of catfish and catfish products. The proposed regulations cover such subjects as preharvest and transportation, facilities and sanitation, requirements for Sanitation Standard Operation Procedures and HACCP plans, handling and disposal of condemned and inedible materials, product labeling, food ingredients and preparation of products, records required to be kept, and export and import requirements.

Under the proposed regulations, catfish and catfish products imported into the United States would have to come from countries that FSIS has determined to operate systems of inspection equivalent to that of FSIS and from establishments certified by the foreign inspection system as complying with FSIS requirements. Upon arrival at United States points of entry, the catfish and catfish products would be subject to re-inspection before entry into this country.

Source: VASEP

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