« November 2007 Table of Contents
Point of View: Discrimination rampant with Chinese catfish
By Bill Pearce
November 01, 2007
In the United States, we take pride in telling the world we
are a land free of discrimination. But when it comes to other
countries doing business in the United States, especially Asia,
there's more bigotry here than anywhere else in the world.
A prime example is the recent injustice with the Chinese
catfish industry. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said
that the illegal antibiotics and fungicides found in some
Chinese catfish imports were not harmful nor life threatening.
Dr. Robert Cox, director of the Mississippi Poison Control
Center, was quoted in the press as saying he was so sure that
Chinese catfish posed no harm that he'd feed the fish to his
But Southern catfish growers, processors and the industry's
lobbying group [the Catfish Farmers of America] pushed for the
FDA import alert, causing financial harm to many poor people.
As the flow of Chinese catfish imports slowed due to the import
alert, prices of Chinese catfish increased and domestic growers
were able to better compete with imports and liquidate their
already excessive inventories.
Domestic catfish processors regularly import Chinese
catfish, bread it in the United States, and then label it as
"made in America." The farms I've visited in China have all
hosted U.S. catfish processors.
China's growing ponds are very small, family-run operations.
Knowing these people as well as I do, to see a mom, pop and
kids living in a shack beside their pond with no income keeps
me awake at night. The import alert put hundreds of family-run
Chinese farms out of business for no reason. What if hundreds
of U.S. family farms were unjustly put out of business by this
type of bigotry, would you stand behind them?
The only companies we should be proud of are the toy
companies, which assumed responsibility for their product
We overfish our waters, we demand large quantities of
affordable seafood from overseas and we give the Chinese orders
for all of this seafood because we can not process enough in
the United States. Are they not following our requests? There
have been no major recalls of Chinese catfish and most of the
Chinese seafood-processing plants I've visited are more
sanitary than their U.S. counterparts.
The Chinese farmers and packers who survived the import
alert cured this minor fish-feed problem within two days of
notification. They also took it upon themselves to establish
pre-testing with reports attached to documents before entry
into the United States, the way any ethical business person
would have handled it.
If a few had not discriminated and we had just notified the
Chinese, no one would have lost a dime and we would have shown
the real spirit of the United States. Instead our hearts and
spirits found their way to our pocketbooks. We all want the
world to be a free, democratic place. Let's start in our own
industry and join hands with our Chinese partners.
We cannot live without imports: China is here to stay. You
can't beat it, so make it work for you.
Bill Pearce is a certified executive chef and research chef
with Crab Source LLC and is a Certified Asian Seafood
Specialist in Mechanicsville, Va.