Alabama enacts foodservice COOL for catfish

Alabama restaurants must now disclose the origin of their catfish and other seafood. Gov. Bob Riley on Thursday signed two seafood-labeling bills the state legislature passed last week.

"Most people in Alabama would like to know if this came from a foreign country or it was grown in America," said Riley, owner of a cattle farm in Ashland, Ala.

One bill, effective January 2010, requires restaurants to inform customers on signs or on the menu that they have the right to request the country of origin of the seafood being served. Another bill, effective this August, requires restaurants to state on a sign or on the menu the country of origin of the catfish being served.

The state’s Board of Health will enforce both laws. Repeat offenders face fines.

In June 2007 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed an import alert on five farmed seafood species from China. Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks temporarily banned the sale of Chinese catfish in Alabama for what he claimed was use of unapproved veterinary drugs.

Alabama’s restaurant country of origin labeling (COOL) law is similar to a federal law that mandates grocery stores to post the origin of its seafood, other meats, peanuts and produce. COOL was part of the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. It went into effect for seafood on 4 April, 2005. But COOL for beef, lamb, pork, chicken and other animal products was delayed until 30 September, 2008.

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