WASHINGTON -- Beginning in April 2005, consumers should start to see labels on seafood in supermarkets telling them where the item was caught and whether it is wild or farm-raised.
The seafood industry had been waiting anxiously for the regulations to be handed down by the original implementation date of Sept. 30. The approaching date triggered a flurry of calls to the National Fisheries Institute from seafood companies wondering if they would be required to follow preliminary guidelines, an NFI spokeswoman said. Many of NFI's members had spent several months preparing to comply with the guidelines to keep their retail customers satisfied, she said.
The seafood industry did not benefit from an earlier, negotiated delay in mandatory COOL for other categories like meat and produce. Commodity groups in the impacted categories submitted a voluntary plan for labeling this past summer, though the proposal is still in Congress.
"Although we are grateful that USDA has taken a number of our industry's suggestions and simplified the final rule in significant respects, the rule still runs over 200 pages as issued, emphasizing the flaws in the underlying law -- excessive paperwork and other bureaucratic measures that do not benefit consumers and only inflate the cost of healthy, popular seafood products," said Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute.
Other segments of the seafood industry view the labeling rule as a helpful tool that should give U.S.-caught fish and wild fish an advantage in the marketplace. Late last month, officials of Wild American Shrimp Inc., a new, non-profit group focused on promoting the U.S. domestic shrimp industry, expressed support for the law.
"The law will help consumers receive the very best value for their purchase and help preserve a salty way of life that defines entire communities throughout the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard," WASI said in a statement.