Posts Tagged labeling

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


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.


John Sackton, Editor And Publisher 1-781-861-1441

Copyright © 2014
Story Posted: 10/1/2014

Sep 19 2014

California Seafood labeling Bill could mean mass consumer confusion, say retailers and NFI

Reposted by permission: © SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Wall St. Journal ] By BEN DIPIETRO | Sept. 19, 2014



A coalition of grocers and retailers and the seafood industry’s main trade association say a proposed law in California that would change the names under which seafood is sold in an effort to combat fraud is misguided and won’t achieve its objective.

The bill, which was approved by the California State Legislature and only needs the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown to become law, would mandate all seafood sold in the state be listed by its common name as well as its market name. Seafood in the state currently is sold using its market name.

Some examples of how the bill would affect labeling include herring being listed as Ilisha, Chilean seabass being listed as Patagonian toothfish and shrimp having to be called by names such as roshna prawn, jack knife prawn or caramote prawn.

Supporters of the measure, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the environmental activist group Oceana, say the change will address the problem of seafood mislabeling, which has been found to be widespread throughout the country. Oceana has conducted DNA tests on seafood purchased around the country between 2010 and 2012, and found 33% of its samples were mislabeled, with the number rising to 38% from stores and restaurants in Northern California and 52% in Southern California.

The bill also would provide more detailed information to consumers who need to know the specific species to avoid allergies or to avoid fish with excessive levels of mercury, or because they want to avoid fish from areas they consider overfished or environmentally vulnerable, said Ashley Blacow, Pacific policy and communications manager at Oceana.

“The market name refers to many species and actually obscures the identity of seafood, ” Ms. Blacow said. “But if provided the common name, consumers are able to make more informed purchasing decisions for their personal health…It means some allergen-sensitive consumers could enjoy some species of seafood while avoiding other species that could cause them problems. ”

As long as the common name is used, nothing in the bill prevents seafood sellers from using the market name to help people who are familiar with those terms, Ms. Blacow said. “Some people are more familiar with the market name but there are consumers who are trying to make very conscientious decisions for their own health or ocean sustainability reasons, so it’s critical those consumers who are looking for that information can find it. ”

Opponents say the measure will only cause confusion as it will put California at odds with the laws of the federal government and the other 49 states. As an example, mahi mahi would also have to be labeled as dolphinfish, its common name. “Our customers, who know and are accustomed to seeing ‘mahi mahi’ would think that they are buying dolphin meat, which will most certainly result in confusion, ” said a letter sent to the governor by the California Grocers Association, California Retailers Association, National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

The retailers say federal law already prohibits mislabeling of seafood, and mandates seafood labels be accurate and truthful. They say the U. S. Food and Drug Administration has created the Seafood List, which says the industry can call a fish by its market name or its common name. The law would also create additional regulatory burdens and likely lead to an increase in the price of seafood, they said.

The retailer groups say they supported a labeling bill in Washington state signed into law in May 2013 that said the common name could be either the acceptable market name or common name as provided in the FDA’s Seafood List. They say they must oppose the California measure because it “runs afoul of this state and industry supported approach. ”

The main U. S. seafood industry trade association, the National Fisheries Institute, said if approved the bill will add nearly 1,850 new common names to the vernacular and to menus. “Is California cracking down on seafood fraud or muddying the water further? We would support efforts to ensure stronger enforcement but this bill does no such thing, ” an NFI spokesman said in an email.

Gov. Brown hasn’t given any indication of whether he will sign the bill, Ms. Blacow said.


Photo Credit: Lobster Place

John Sackton, Editor And Publisher 1-781-861-1441
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