October 8, 2004 -- Food companies fighting Congress? directive to start telling consumers whether the fish they buy is farm-raised or caught won a six-month reprieve Thursday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported Associated Press.
New regulations to implement a provision in the 2002 Farm Bill requiring fresh and frozen fish to carry labels specifying their origin were issued Thursday, but the government said grocery stores won't have to comply until April. The labels also will have to specify what country the seafood came from.
Food companies and trade groups had complained that processors would have to throw out stocks of fish if they could not sell them before the labeling requirement took effect. The wait will let the industry sell off its existing product, the department said. Officials said they also plan to delay for a year strict enforcement of the new requirements while commercial fishermen, fish farmers, importers, distributors and retailers are trained on how to comply.
Under the rule, supermarkets and larger retailers will be responsible for labeling but smaller "mom and pop" retailers will not have to comply, said A. J. Yates, administrator of the department?s Agricultural Marketing Service.
The rule also exempts processed fish (canned tuna and breaded fish sticks), items that have undergone a change (cooked or smoked fish) and foodservice establishments such as restaurants or salad bar and deli sections of supermarkets.
"Sheep producers are interested in the rules for mandatory labeling of fish since similar rulemaking will be in order by October 2006 for lamb," stated American Sheep Industry Association Executive Director Peter Orwick.
The full text of the interim final rule can be found at: Interim Final Rule.
Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33