California governor vetoes seafood mislabeling bill


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
October 1, 2014

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday vetoed state senate bill 1138, legislation that would have criminalized the sale of mislabeled seafood.

The bill would have required seafood producers, processors, retailers and restaurants to label their packaging and menus with the “common” name of the seafood item, as opposed to a federally approved market name.

“Much of what the bill seeks to accomplish is good,” wrote Gov. Brown in a letter to the members of the state senate. “Requiring seafood producers and wholesalers to identify whether fish and shellfish are wild caught or farm raised, domestic or imported — these are reasonable and helpful facts for purchasers to know. Requiring more precise, species-specific labeling of seafood, however, is not as easily achieved…Let’s continue to work to give California consumers information that will help them make wise decisions.”  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes a list of both market and common names. The bill’s requirement to use the FDA’s common name would “create uncertainties and complexities that may not be easily resolved,” according to Brown.

Foodservice outlets would have been exempt from the labeling requirement, but only if they verbally informed customers of the common name at the point of sale.

The U.S. National Fisheries Institute (NFI) strongly supported the veto.

“Though mislabeling and fraud are legitimate and serious issues, the California legislation would have done nothing to address them, and would have burdened NFI member companies with a complex and needless new mandate, while confusing consumers with additional labeling information of no value,” the organization said in a statement.

NFI worked with the California Fish & Seafood Institute to explain the legislation’s flaws to Gov. Brown and his staff. 

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