Mass. senator revamps fish fraud bill


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
March 6, 2013

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Wednesday introduced a new bipartisan version of a bill to combat “rampant” seafood mislabeling and other forms of fraud via heightened traceability requirements.

The Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, also known as the SAFE Seafood Act, contains new language to reflect input from federal agencies, conservation groups, fishermen and the seafood industry.

Amending an earlier version filed in July, Markey’s new bill requires more specific traceability information about where a particular fish was caught or grown. Much of the information, Markey notes, is already collected by U.S. fishermen, such as species name, catch location and harvest method.

“Fish fraud is a national problem that needs a national solution. This bill finally tells the seafood swindlers and fish fraudsters that we will protect America's fishermen and consumers from Massachusetts to Alaska,” says Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee. “From tackle to table, this bill makes the entire seafood supply chain more transparent and trustworthy.”

The new bill also “more fully recognizes” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) existing authority and new responsibilities under the Food Safety Modernization Act. FDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will have more power to refuse entry of seafood products based on safety concerns. NOAA will be allowed to level civil penalties against violators under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

In addition to the fraud prevention measures, the bill addresses concerns over seafood safety raised in a 2011 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report by requiring cooperation and progress reporting. The GAO report found that a lack of coordination between FDA and NOAA is resulting in needless duplication of seafood safety inspections.

Co-sponsors include Walter Jones (R-N.C.), John Tierney (D-Mass.), Bill Keating (D-Mass.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.). Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) will introduce companion legislation in the senate.

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