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May 09, 2007   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
May 09, 2007

MONTGOMERY, Ala., May 9 - Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, today praised Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for his work to increase inspections of fish and seafood by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Under an amendment passed by the Senate today, the FDA would have increased legal authority to enhance inspections of fish, shrimp, seafood and other aquaculture products, Sessions announced.

"We appreciate Sen. Sessions' enthusiastic response to the situation facing catfish producers and the general public," said Dallas County farmer Butch Wilson, who serves as chairman of Alabama Catfish Producers. "Several Southeastern states have tested imported fish and found banned antibiotics. U.S. farm-raised catfish producers already operate under the strictest guidelines in the world. This amendment will help ensure foreign products are held to the same high standards."

The measure authorizes the secretary of Health and Human Services to enhance the inspection of aquaculture and seafood, including catfish and shrimp, for antibiotics and other FDA-banned contaminants. Under the provisions of the amendment, the Secretary must report back to Congress on what steps are being taken to ensure that proper inspections are occurring.

Sessions' bipartisan amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss; Trent Lott, R-Miss; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; David Vitter, R-La.; Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

Sessions offered the amendment to S. 1082, the Prescription Drug User Fee Act of 2007. Sessions' bill was part of a package of amendments adopted by unanimous consent last night. The Senate passed the underlying legislation today, 93-1.

"It is unacceptable to allow substandard catfish and shrimp, mostly produced in China, to enter the U.S. market when those imported products do not meet the established safety standards that govern our food supply," Sessions said. "The amendment represents a significant step toward protecting American consumers from substandard catfish, shrimp and seafood products."

Additionally, the amendment would require the secretary to report to Congress within 90 days on the feasibility of developing a traceability system for catfish and seafood products.

A traceability system would potentially allow federal inspectors to better identify the source of tainted food products, once such products are discovered.

"The feasibility report required by the amendment will be an extremely valuable tool as we consider the establishment of a functioning traceability system," Sessions said. "This report will provide critical information to Congress, and will be especially important as the Senate plans to consider food safety legislation later this year."

The amended Prescription Drug User Fee Act of 2007 has broad-based support and is expected to be considered by the House of Representatives this summer.

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