The Alabama Legislature recently passed a bill to strengthen country-of-origin labeling laws by requiring restaurants to properly label catfish and catfish-like species.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Demopolis, said proper food labeling protects citizens and is important to consumer health and safety.
Sage Spree, Alabama’s 2015 Catfish Farmer of the Year, said U.S. farm-raised catfish is the healthiest option a consumer can find.
“The foreign competition doesn’t have to meet the same standards we have to meet here,” he said. “They raise fish in some of the most polluted rivers in the world. I know where the water is coming from here. It’s good, clean water that produces good, clean fish. I have a wife and daughter, and I don’t want to raise anything that’s not safe for us to eat.”
Rick Oates of the Alabama Farmers Federation said HB186, sponsored by McCampbell and Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, will help keep the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry viable.
“The catfish industry plays an important economic role in Alabama,” said Oates, Federation Catfish Division director. “Catfish raised in Alabama are among the healthiest and tastiest products on the market, and consumers will now have more information about food they might consume. It’s encouraging to see our elected officials acknowledge this importance, and we’re glad to see this legislation become a law.”
A 2012 study by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama Agribusiness Council reports the catfish industry employs 5,829 people and injects $158.2 million into the state’s economy. Alabama ranks second nationally in catfish farming behind Mississippi.
Currently, only 1 percent of imported seafood is inspected by the Food and Drug Administration.