One of the most common fish imported as “catfish” from Vietnam is a species known as pangasius, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Vietnamese fish are often exposed to antibiotics and not allowed into U.S. commerce by the USDA. Many are grown in small spaces that stress the animals and make them more susceptible to disease.
These fish often have higher instances of bacterial infection and they’re often grown in waste and sludge. USDA has placed tighter restrictions over recent years on imported fish from Vietnam.
The State of Arkansas now has 13 inspectors that travel the state conducting inspections and the actual fish are examined. If necessary, the Arkansas Department of Health conducts DNA testing to determine if it came from Vietnam and/or is mislabeled.
The problem is not limited to Arkansas. In Illinois a study by Oceana, a national conservation group, found 32 percent of fish and seafood samples tested in Chicago were mislabeled as another fish entirely.
The study noted that Vietnamese catfish called basa or swai that’s imported in large amounts into the U.S. every year were never found on the menu of any restaurants in the area.
So catfish from Vietnam is either getting mislabeled or mixed in with fish sandwiches or fish sticks, or whatever, the study concluded.