Louisiana law charging fee to test imported seafood now in effect

Published on
August 3, 2021
Louisiana's state capitol building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Starting Sunday, 1 August, a new law took effect in Louisiana that expands the testing requirements for foreign-produced seafood sold by state businesses.

Under the law, commercial seafood permit holders who sell imported seafood will be charged a USD 100 (EUR 84.24) annual fee. According to a fiscal note for the bill, the fee will raise USD 7,500 (EUR 6,317) annually.

State Rep. Timothy Kerner (R-Lafitte) sponsored the bill, H.B. 317, in the Louisiana State Legislature during its session earlier this year. It calls for the creation of the the Imported Seafood Safety Fund,, which will be earmarked to the Louisiana Department of Health.

During a legislative session on 18 May, Kerner said the state's health department will test seafood imports for such items as banned antibiotics as well as bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. He noted that more than 1.5 billion pounds of imported seafood come into the country, but that less than 2 percent of those shipments are tested, and just 0.1 percent is tested for the drugs or bacteria, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

While he said there is Louisiana seafood that is unchecked, he noted that the state’s farmers have to have their cattle and chicken tested for food safety purposes.

“Everything that the people in Louisiana do and raise is checked, but we're going to let millions of pounds of foreign imports come in untested,” Kerner said on the House floor. “And I think it's wrong.”

The bill is designed to help Louisiana’s wild-catch shrimp fishery, which is competing against cheaper imports that mainly are farm-raised in Asian countries. Supporters of the state's shrimp sector say the imported farmed shrimp are given antibiotics that are not allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The state's shrimp industry is backed by the Southern Shrimp Alliance, a trade group representing shrimpers and processors in U.S. eight states. The organization has lobbied for the U.S. government to take actions to inspect and reject more foreign shrimp, which it claims can be treated with medications unapproved for use in the U.S.

The state House passed the bill by a 95-0 vote on 18 May, and the state Senate followed up with a 36-0 vote on 7 June. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed it into law on 14 June.  

In September 2019, Louisiana passed a law that requires restaurants in the state that sell imported crawfish and shrimp to disclose where the seafood was caught or grown. 

Photo courtesy of Fang Deng/Shutterstock

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