The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has announced that it is suspending its Salmonella sampling program for Siluriformes fish (catfish) and fish products. The decision will take effect on July 13, 2022. FSIS is currently accepting comments through the Federal Register regarding the discontinuation of its sampling program.
FSIS originally established a mandatory inspection program for Siluriformes fish and fish products in December 2015, after a risk assessment of the food safety concerns associated with consuming catfish in the U.S. identified Salmonella as a hazard of primary concern. At the time of the risk assessment’s publication, the presence of Salmonella in catfish processing facilities, retail, and imports had historically been an issue. The risk assessment also cited a 1991 outbreak of Salmonella Hadar that was caused by catfish.
From May 2016–September 2020, FSIS collected and tested 3,970 samples of domestic and imported catfish and catfish products for Salmonella. Of the total samples collected, 80 tested positive for Salmonella. Domestic catfish tested positive for Salmonella at a rate of 3.53 percent, whereas imported catfish tested positive at a rate of 0.32 percent.
Aside from the 1991 outbreak of Salmonella Hadar, catfish has not been linked to any Salmonella outbreaks, which may be due to the fact that most catfish are fully cooked before consumption. Based on consumer cooking practices, a lack of recent outbreaks attributed to catfish, and a low percent of positive samples, FSIS made the decision to suspend its program for Salmonella sampling in catfish and catfish products. FSIS will, however, continue to test catfish for residues as part of its National Residue Program.