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November 04, 2009   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
November 04, 2009

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Just days before a new Alabama law was to take effect requiring restaurants to tell customers if the catfish they serve is imported, state officials announced imported catfish and basa products from five foreign countries tested positive for antibiotics banned in the United States.

Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks announced the "Stop Sale" on imported fish from Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, China and Vietnam at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The order was due to positive test results for the antibiotic fluoroquinolones. Fluoroquinolones are not allowed for use in fish or seafood by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The stop sale prevents products from the offending countries from being sold within Alabama unless the shipment is accompanied by certification that the fish passed inspection by an independent lab.

Alabama's new country-of-origin labeling for catfish served in restaurants is scheduled to go into affect Nov. 25. The legislation was backed by the Alabama Farmers Federation and passed during the last session of the Alabama Legislature. Imported fish has flooded the U.S. market in recent years, and those imports undermine local farmers, said Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish Division Director Mitt Walker. The imported fish often is mistaken by consumers as being U.S. farm-raised catfish, he said. Federal law already requires catfish sold in grocery stores to have country-of-origin labeling, however, most catfish is eaten in restaurants, Walker added.

Eighteen of 40 samples of basa-type products and catfish tested by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries were positive for fluoroquinolones, Sparks said. He issued nine suspensions from sale or movement orders for 486 cases of the fish totaling 8,840 pounds. These products have been either voluntarily destroyed or returned to the importer of record after the department notified the FDA.

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