The food commodity of catfish has been added to the list of foods that are within the USDA’s responsibility of inspection. FSIS collects samples of meat and poultry products to estimate the national prevalence and levels of bacteria of public health concern, and is referred to as a baseline study. It has been determined that the agency needs to collect microbiological data regarding the presence and levels of various bacteria in order to determine a baseline for these microbes on catfish. In addition, because some of the bacteria to be tested are not part of the usual microbiological testing regiment and because the sample type is new to the agency, it is necessary to develop new methods of sample preparation and sample analysis to be used for this baseline and by the agency during its regulatory efforts to examine catfish.
The laboratory performs the microbiological analysis. The expected sample types are pieces of catfish (fresh, smoked, or frozen filets, catfish nuggets, whole fish, etc), or rinsates of catfish obtained in the field and shipped to the laboratory. In addition, the testing of environmental samples (catfish pond water and sediment, water used in the preparation of the fish) and environmental samples obtained from within the catfish processing plant/establishment may be required and are included within the scope of this task. While it is expected that the fish type to be tested will primarily be catfish, there is the possibility that fish mislabeled as catfish will be submitted for testing; therefore all samples submitted to the laboratory are to be tested. All samples will be transported to the laboratory by overnight carrier. The laboratory may be required to develop analytical methods for the testing of new bacterial target samples. Validation of sample preparation and method development shall be performed in conjunction with the FSIS Field Service Laboratories.