BATON ROUGE - A bill being considered by the Louisiana Legislature would require all food service establishments to tell their customers if they are being served crawfish or shrimp imported from a foreign country.
House Bill 335, authored by Jerry “Truck” Gisclair (D-Larose), was approved by the Louisiana House of Representatives Health and Welfare Committee on April 25. According to the bill, “the state recognizes that serious risks to public health may be posed by antibiotics, radiation and numerous toxins found in seafood products … that originate outside the United States.”
A 2017 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office stated that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only sampled .01 percent of all seafood imports in 2015.
According to the report, about 12.2 percent of the FDA’s drug testing samples for shrimp were found to have the presence of unsafe drug residues.
Although foreign shrimp and crawfish from southeast Asia can be purchased cheaper abroad than domestically, the shellfish have been found to contain unsafe levels of illegal antibiotics in the past.
Gisclair said he introduced the bill out of concern for the health effects of the shrimp and crawfish being imported.
As a consumer, he said he always asks restaurants where their seafood came from.
“I have a right to know what I’m putting into my body,” he said. “The hope is to let people know of the health issues involved with imported shrimp.”
If his bill were to pass, restaurants would have to either put that its shrimp or crawfish were imported on the menu, on a piece of paper clipped to the menu or on a sign at the entrance. In lieu of those, the server would need to tell customers orally, otherwise it would be a health code violation.
Gisclair said his bill has the support of groups such as Louisiana Shrimp Association, American Shrimp Processors Association, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and the fisherman along the coast.
But despite the support of those groups and the committee members, Gisclair said it’s still uncertain whether the bill will garner enough votes when it’s introduced on the full House floor in the next two weeks.
He said the Louisiana Restaurant Association hasn’t backed the bill and could prevent it from advancing.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association is an association that advocates on behalf of its hundreds of members against legislation that it views could hurt the food service industry.
In the past, Gisclair’s attempts to push bills that would improve seafood labeling have died in committee.
“It remains to be seen what’s going to happen on the House floor,” said Gisclair. “We’re going to work hard to convince 104 others that this bill is good for the people.
More than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported from other countries. Shrimp is the leading fresh or frozen product imported to the U.S., accounting for about 33 percent of all seafood imports by weight. The average American eats 4.4 pounds of shrimp annually and a total of 16 pounds of seafood.
A full version of HB335 can be found at www.legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?s=19RS&b=HB335&sbi=y
Posted on Tue, April 30, 2019
by The Lafourche Gazette