The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recognised Vietnam as a country eligible to export Siluriformes fish (catfish, including tra fish) and fish products to the US.
|A tra fish processing factory in Can Tho city
The US Office of the Federal Register announced the FSIS’s legal notice on the determination on November 5.
Accordingly, FSIS has determined that Vietnam’s Siluriformes fish inspection system is equivalent to the system that the US has established under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and its implementing regulations. FSIS is amending the Siluriformes fish inspection regulations to list Vietnam as a country eligible to export Siluriformes fish and fish products to the US.
Under this final rule, only raw Siluriformes fish and fish products produced in certified Vietnamese establishments are eligible for export to the US market.
Aside from Vietnamese authorities’ certification, Siluriformes fish products exported from Vietnam will continue to be subject to re-inspection by FSIS at US points of entry for transportation damage, product and container defects, labeling, proper certification, general condition, and accurate count.
In addition, FSIS will continue to conduct other types of re-inspection activities, such as taking product samples for laboratory analysis to detect drug and chemical residues and pathogens, as well as to identify product species and composition. Products that pass re-inspection will be stamped with the official mark of inspection and allowed to enter the US.
If they do not meet US requirements, they will be denied entry and within 45 days they must be exported to the country of origin, destroyed, or converted to animal food, depending on the violation.
From 2014 to 2018, 91.2 percent of total Siluriformes fish imports to the US were from Vietnam, according to FSIS.
Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Phung Duc Tien described the determination by the USDA as a positive result as it has recognised Vietnam’s efforts to fine-tune and implement its legal system for more than three years. This rule, together with positive signs in the market and rising demand for aquatic products at the end of the year, will create chances for Vietnam to boost aquatic product exports.
Nguyen Nhu Tiep, Director of the ministry’s National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department, also believed that the US’s recognition is an important driving force for the sector to develop sustainably in the time ahead.
The move will support exports to not only the US but also other markets since it proves that Vietnam’s capacity for quality and food safety control in tra fish production chains has met one of the strictest requirements in the world, he added.
As required by the 2014 Farm Bill, the USDA launched an inspection programme for fish under the order Siluriformes in March 2016. This programme required that to continue exporting catfish, mostly tra fish, to the US, Vietnam had to build and organise its inspection system equivalent to the US’s in terms of three groups of criteria, namely the legal system on food quality and safety control; the law enforcement capacity of authorised agencies; and conditions for ensuring food safety and hygiene during the whole process from fry production, farming, transportation, process to export to the US.
In May 2018, an FSIS inspection team made a fact-finding trip to Vietnam and recognised that Vietnam’s inspection system in catfish production, processing and export completely meets the US’s regulations.
The draft rule was unveiled in September 2018 to collect public opinions and won a majority of support. The USDA announced the final rule on October 31.