Monday, October 13, 2008

Can Chinese Catfish Be Trusted?

Several years ago, Vietnamese growers of faux-catfish were accused of using banned carcinogenic fungicides and antibiotics to get higher yields from their ponds. American catfish farmers filed an anti-dumping petition against the Vietnames producers, seeking tariffs of up to 60% to balance out the dumping margin.

Now, a new threat from China (the world's largest aquaculturist) is on the horizon. China is growing genuine-American catfish in Chinese ponds and will be able to sell them for less than what it costs American growers to grow them.

Last year, after detecting carcinogens (malachite green and crystal violet), as well as an anthrax-fighting antibiotic, the FDA put an import alert on all Chinese catfish. The FDA is curently considering lifting the alert.

However, under this year's farm bill, catfish (as a product) were put under the Food Safety and Inspection Service, a subdivision of the Agriculture Department. Foreign exporters making products that fall within the inspection service dossier must meet similar standards as US producers. Chinese producers, to sell Chinese-American catfish in the US have to come into compliance by December of 2009.

Can the Chinese be trusted to produce catfish in accordance with the same standards as US catfish-farmers? How can we be safe? After melamine in pet foods and dairy products, lead paint on children's toys, and dangerous chemicals in toothpastes, perhaps not? What do you think?

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