House panel revises legislation to require restaurants and delis to add country-of-origin labeling for fish and shrimp

After negotiating with restaurant and retail groups, including the Alabama Retail Association, a House panel this week substantially rewrote legislation that would create more stringent country-of-origin labeling requirements for restaurants and grocery store delis.

After a public hearing Wednesday, the House Ports, Waterways and Intermodal Transit Committee adopted a substitute version of HB66 by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile. Brown said the substitute gives businesses the option of labeling fish or shrimp as imported, rather than as being from a specific country. The bill continues to require that fish and shrimp be labeled as farm-raised or wild fish. A link to the substitute version of the bill was not available on the Alabama Legislature’s website at publication time.

The substitute clarifies that the legislation does not apply to any retailer required to inform consumers of the country of origin under federal law. Grocery stores, supermarkets and club warehouses are subject to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and must comply with the federal country-of-origin labeling law. Restaurants are exempt from the federal law, so would be required to comply with Brown’s legislation, should it be adopted.

Alabama Retail and other stakeholders will continue to negotiate with the bill sponsor to simplify signage provisions of the legislation. The substitute does alter the font size on notification to the same size as the fish or shrimp sold. A standard paper size is also being negotiated. The bill also allows the notification to be paper clipped to the menu or to be displayed on a sign by the restaurant main entrance if the business doesn’t use menus as a standard business practice.

The mayor of Bayou Le Batre, a shrimp processor and a representative of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab spoke in favor of Brown’s legislation.

Brown said his legislation would have no effect on Alabama’s catfish notification law, which is in a separate part of the Alabama code.

Earlier  in the day, the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee amended SB90 by Sens. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, and Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and then carried it over.

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