Oct 1 2014

Seafood and restaurant industries dodge a bullet as Gov. Brown vetoes California sfd labeling law

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – Oct 1, 2014 | Posted with permission of seafoodnews.com


 

California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed Senate Bill 1138, the fish and shellfish labeling law, that would have created chaos for seafood consumers.

The bill was pushed through the legislature by Oceana, who claimed that it would help combat seafood fraud.  But the remedy – using the FDA common name for each species, rather than the standard market name is is now required, would have created chaos.

The bill would have required that seafood producers, seafood processors, retailers, and restaurants label their packaging and menus with the “common” name of the seafood item, as opposed to the market name developed by the Food and Drug Administration.

There are over 1850 common names for fish and shellfish sold in California.  The FDA allows most similar species to be grouped under the same market name, for example “shrimp.”

In discussing why this bill was so bad, Mary Smith at Santa Monica Seafood said “A waitress would need to inform a customer ordering shrimp whether the shrimp was “Kadal Shrimp” or “Marsh Grass Shrimp” or “Jinga Shrimp” or one 30 possible Common Names for specific shrimp species.

“A worker at a food truck accepting an order for a mahi fish taco would need to inform the customer “at the time the customer orders” that she will be served dolphinfish.”

“Hotel restaurant staff would need to know and immediately inform a guest that his “Rockfish” was actually “Splitnose Rockfish” or “Swordspine Rockfish” or “Bronzespotted Rockfish” to comply with this law.”

It would be literally impossible for waitstaff to know the more than 1,850 Common Names of the fish served daily at California restaurants … and the law states a restaurant shall provide the Common Name when the customer orders the fish.

Under the guise of protecting consumers, the real impact of this bill would be to reduce seafood consumption.

NFI strongly supported this veto and was pleased to be able to work with the California Fish & Seafood Institute to explain the legislation’s flaws to the Governor and his staff.  Though mislabeling and fraud are legitimate and serious issues, the California legislation would have done nothing to address them, and would have burdened NFI member companies with a complex and needless new mandate, while confusing consumers with additional labeling information of no value.

In his veto Message, the Governor took this advice.  He said “Much of what the bill seeks to accomplish is good. Requiring seafood producers and wholesalers to identify whether fish and shellfish are wild caught or farm raised, domestic or imported – these are reasonable and helpful facts for purchasers to know.”

“Requiring more precise, species-specific labeling of seafood. however, is not as easily achieved.”

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration publishes both market names and common names under which fish and shellfish may be sold. The bill’s requirement to use the FDA published common name in all fish and shellfish labels, unless the state promulgates a different common name, would create uncertainties and complexities that may not be easily resolved.”

The veto is a small success for the states restaurant and seafood industry.  But it is unfortunate that so much time has to be spent lobbying and reacting to those who keep seeking to limit seafood consumption, under the guise of ‘helping’ the American consumers fight fraud.

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John Sackton, Editor And Publisher
SeafoodNews.com 1-781-861-1441

Copyright © 2014 Seafoodnews.com
Story Posted: 10/1/2014

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