FSIS’s rationale for this change in the inspection coverage is based on its observations and experience with the 16 official fish slaughter establishments in the U.S. that receive continuous inspection, where the fish are slaughtered and processed at the same facility. As FSIS notes, “the typical farm-raised fish slaughter operation [in the U.S.] is a streamlined, automated process that combines slaughter with processing in the same continuous operation.” Therefore, in the agency’s view, “fish slaughter operations are more closely aligned with meat processing-only operations, as opposed to meat slaughter operations” for the purposes of classifying establishments under the law to determine required inspections.

We do not believe that the planned change serves the interests of U.S. consumers. Instead, FSIS should maintain the inspection coverage implemented starting on March 1, 2016, in which the agency assigns inspection personnel during all hours of operation at official establishments that kill live catfish. In addition to being consistent with FSIS’s previously stated plans for catfish inspection, maintaining this level of inspection coverage would help ensure consumer safety related to domestic and imported catfish alike.