The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a final rule establishing an inspection program for Siluriformes fish, including catfish.

The rule—developed to meet requirements of the 2014 Farm Bill—applies to both domestically raised and imported Siluriformes fish. It will go into effect in March 2016, 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

“FSIS is committed to a smooth and gradual introduction to the new inspection program, which was mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill,” says Al Almanza, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “The agency will conduct extensive outreach to domestic industry and international partners so that they fully understand FSIS’ requirements prior to full implementation.”

In March, all Siluriformes fish will fall under the regulatory jurisdiction of FSIS. It has historically been the responsibility of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before March, any countries that wish to continue exporting Siluriformes fish products into the U.S. must provide a list of establishment that currently export, along with written documentation of their regulatory authority and compliance with existing FDA import requirements.

During the transitional period, FSIS will conduct inspection during all hours of operation at domestic establishments that slaughter and process Siluriformes fish, similar to inspection provided at meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities, while also providing the establishments with close guidance to ensure that they understand FSIS’ requirements. During this time, inspection program personnel will also be assigned to visit domestic Siluriformes fish processing establishments, at least once per quarter.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. Regulations applying to the Siluriformes fish industry are adapted under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, as required by law under the 2014 Farm Bill.

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