The Other Fish Fight

The House and Senate have passed conflicting versions of a bill (H3136) that, as initially introduced, would have required restaurants serving catfish to state the “country of origin” on their menus.
The House version, as amended, now says customers must be told country of origin on request and it also prohibits calling a product catfish unless that’s what it really is. The Senate version, as amended, requires non-American catfish be designated as “imported” on the menu.
Chas Sisk has a thorough report on the arguments for and against catfish labeling, a movement spurred by growing imports from China and Vietnam. A spokesman for Gov. Phil Bredesen, incidentally, says the subject didn’t come up during the governor’s recent trip to China and Vietnam.
Tennessee would be the fifth state to pass such a law and the first that is not a major catfish production state. Catfish labeling legislation also has been introduced in Georgia, and supporters hope passage here will pave the way to similar laws in Texas, Missouri and Kentucky.
The Catfish Institute says it is primarily concerned about the safety of Asian catfish. Often raised in polluted rivers, imported fish frequently contain antibiotics and chemicals that would be unacceptable in food raised in the U.S., they say.
But Jack Flynn, a Rhode Island importer who supplies catfish to Middle Tennessee, disputes that claim. The federal government sets the same standards for domestic and foreign fish sold in the U.S., Flynn says.
“This is just a non-duty trade barrier,” he said. “Really, what they’re going to do is drive up the price of catfish in Tennessee.”

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