Bill requiring restaurants to label imported shrimp and crawfish passes Louisiana House

Published on
May 9, 2019

The Louisiana state House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill earlier this week that would require restaurants in the state that serve crawfish and shrimp to notify customers of the product’s country of origin.

After the 99-0 vote Wednesday, House Bill 335, sponsored by state Rep. Jerry Gisclair (D-Larose) now heads to the state Senate for its consideration. 

Shrimp and crawfish are two of Louisiana’s biggest seafood products, but fishermen in the state compete against cheaper, imported products that they and state officials claim are treated with antibiotics and other medicines not approved in the United States. Further, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is only able to inspect about 2 percent of the shipments that enter the country.

The legislation has the support of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which has fought for years to get a labeling requirement passed on the federal level. However, those labeling requirements are currently only available at grocery stores.

“While not by any means is every imported shrimp served in a restaurant contaminated with dangerous antibiotics, there is currently no way for a consumer to know,” said John Williams, the executive director of the SSA. “We are forced to essentially play Russian roulette.”

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Louisiana Restaurant Association has urged its members to not support the bill.

However, Scott Simoneaux, a crawfish processor, said restaurants went along with the federal Affordable Care Act that required most restaurants to include calorie information for items on their menus.

“Well, if they’re going to agree with that and be transparent, let’s go the next step and let’s do something for Louisiana,” he told lawmakers during a House Health and Welfare Committee hearing on the bill in late April.

The ability to let restaurant patrons know the location of origin for their purchase could only help the local industry, which has been struggling for decades, supporters said.

The impact of foreign shrimp and crawfish into the U.S. market has decimated the industry in Louisiana. Louisiana had 36,000 shrimpers 30 years ago. Today, it has about a sixth of that total.

   

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