New Regulations Call for Stricter Labeling of Catfish in Miss.By Jeffrey Hess | Published 12 Jul 2013 06:00am |
Mississippi restaurants are now required to follow a new law that is intended to improve the labeling of catfish. Restaurants will now have to make it clear if they are serving US farm raised catfish or foreign catfish-like products.
At Penn's Seafood resturant in Jackson diners pile up plates of beans, corn bread and, of course, fried catfish.
A new state law that took effect this month requires restaurants like Penn's to post a sign or add a label on their menu declaring if their fish is actually catfish that was raised in the US or a foreign catfish like product known as basa, Swai or Tra.
Penn's owner RW Penn says he is ok with the law and chooses to serve only US catfish because it is what he costumers expect.
"They know that they are getting a good clean, well raised fish. It is just like any other product, when you are eating you don't want to eat anything that you don't think is approved and good quality stuff," Penn said.
Mississippi has had a catfish labeling law for years but it contained a loophole that allowed the cheaper foreign fish to be sold without clear labeling.
That lead to confusion among consumers and restaurants.
Jeremy Robbins with the industry trade group The Catfish institute says there are major concerns about the quality of the foreign fish.
"The imported catfish and cafish like species that comes to the United States, about 50% is turned back for various reasons. Whether it is just filthy or contaiminated with illegal antibiotics," Robbins said.
Robbins says only about 2-percent of all imported fish is inspected.
The Mississippi Department of Agriculture supports the change.
However, Spokesman Andy Prosser downplays the concerns about the quality of foreign raised fish.
"I would definitely say that is not the case. Restaurants here in Mississippi have been very good and diligent about serving quality food to its consumers. All this does is clarify to consumers in terms of labeling of what they are eating," Prosser said.
Prosser says it is increasingly commonplace for foods of all sorts to come with labels explaining where and how they were raised, so it makes sense for catfish to be included.
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