US exporters briefed on new EU regs, catfish

By

James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
September 11, 2014

U.S. federal government representatives this week briefed seafood-exporting companies about pending EU regulations that could impact their businesses, as well as the controversial catfish inspection program.

In Portland, Maine, USA, today and in New Bedford, Mass., earlier this week, Stephane Vrignaud of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) warned exporters about new labeling requirements for frozen, dried and salted seafood products.

Previously, products shipped to EU member states needed only to list the commercial species name, the production method (wild, farmed) and the general catch area. Now, EU regulations effective 13 December 2014 require products to list the fishing gear type and a more precise catch location.

The seven categories of gear types include seines, trawls, gillnets and similar nets, surrounding nets, hook and line, dredges and pots and traps. A specific catch location will now require information such as “Northeast Atlantic” versus the previous requirement of “FAO 21,” for example.

These new regulations apply only to products destined for retail sale or sale to mass caterers.

The EU is also introducing a rapid-alert system for food and feed. Any company shipping products that are rejected by European customs agents must then ship 10 consecutive shipments that pass inspection before they are removed from the reinforced control database.

Vrignaud also briefed attendees on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which could be finalized by the end of this year. The U.S. government considers the TTIP as a companion agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership; the pact could increase trade between the United States and the EU significantly.

Also, Tim Hansen of NOAA Fisheries’ Office for Seafood Inspection told attendees that the controversial catfish inspection regime switch, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, should happen in early 2015. Hansen said that the implementation of that new inspection scheme, which was approved in the 2010 Farm Bill but has not yet been implemented, could halt catfish and pangasius imports from China and Vietnam for “quite a while.” He added that creating an equivalency program for the USDA standard could take up to five years.

For more detailed information, visit the NOAA Fisheries Seafood Inspection Program website at www.seafood.nmfs.noaa.gov.

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