First, some history. Catfish, like all fish, is FDA regulated. FDA Seafood Hazardous Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations hold seafood importers responsible for the seafood safety controls performed by their overseas suppliers the same way they hold domestic producers responsible. The FDA and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention consider catfish a low-risk product. There have been no reports of catfish related salmonella illnesses in the last 14 years.
 
Despite the fact that the inspection of catfish, as well as the inspection of other riskier fish products, is working quite well, some in Congress passed legislation to move catfish monitoring to the USDA. If the plan goes forward, businesses that process multiple species would see regulatory oversight from both the FDA and the USDA.  Since the USDA has yet to develop a regulatory strategy, the results will be turmoil for seafood purveyors -- nonsensical redundancy over the inspection of a “low risk” product.
 
The new duplicate rules will not come cheap. The Government Accountability Office puts the price tab at $30 million just to get USDA up and running.  It has identified the program as wasteful and recommends that it be scrapped.
 
The inspiration for this rush to spend $30 million (to start) of hard earned taxpayer dollars on a non-existent problem is a group of lobbyists and a trade association representing elements of the American catfish producers. This group has bullied Congress into moving catfish regulation to the USDA, making it harder for their foreign competitors to enter the US market. This move is a win for US catfish producers, but ultimately, a loss for American taxpayers and consumers.    
 
The catfish program is so ridiculous it has attracted a coalition of unlikely allies in opposition to it, including Senators Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE, John KerryJohn Forbes KerryOcasio-Cortez and Cruz's dialogue shows common ground isn't just for moderates 'Landslide' for Biden? A look at 40 years of inaccurate presidential polls Trump campaign considering making a play for blue state Oregon: report MORE, John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission MORE, Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHow Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA Republicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment MORE and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDesign leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay Bipartisan senators push new bill to improve foreign lobbying disclosures MORE. As the USDA inches closer to catfish inspection, it is time for more members of Congress to speak up. As Senators McCain and Coburn made clear when they introduced legislation to prevent the expansion of catfish inspections, this regulation is “nothing more than a protectionist tactic funded at taxpayers’ expense.”
 
There is no room for politics in food safety. If the public was better protected by moving catfish to USDA, I would be the first person to speak up. Science makes clear that Americans are safe from catfish. Whether they are safe from politicians looking to use tax dollars for pet projects remains in question.
 
Bryon Truglio is the retired chief of the FDA’s Seafood Processing and Technology Policy Branch.