McCampbell prepares to sponsor catfish bill

Published 11:14 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

State Representative A.J. McCampbell (D-Demopolis) plans to sponsor legislation requiring all Alabama restaurants to disclose the origin of the catfish served to its customers.

McCampbell said this would be an important step in assuring that consumers are protected from risks associated with certain imported fish while providing a shot in the arm to one of the Black Belt’s largest industries.

“State-mandated catfish labeling legislation would not only help ensure the safety of our consumers — which is paramount — but it would also help ensure the livelihood of the thousands of residents employed by the Alabama catfish industry,” McCampbell said.

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Roger Barlow, president of The Catfish Institute, said survey results mirror similar surveys conducted in other areas of the country, adding that Alabamians understand the dangers of imported catfish.

“They know that without this legislation, there is a potentially serious risk from bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants routinely found on imported catfish by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” Barlow said.

“These consumers also know that U.S. farmers provide the healthiest food the world has to offer. Given the choice, an overwhelming majority will always prefer to eat U.S. farm-raised catfish.”

A new survey of Alabama residents shows that, in the face of ongoing Chinese food safety dangers, an overwhelming majority of consumers want to know where their catfish comes from.

According to the survey, 96.7 percent of respondents believe Alabama restaurants should be required by state law to inform consumers if they are served imported catfish.

Moreover, 95 percent of survey respondents said restaurants should be made to follow the same strict federal labeling laws governing grocery stores.

Alabama has nearly 22,000 acres of water devoted to catfish farming, and ranks second nationally in terms of production.

Production and processing of catfish, the state’s fifth-most valuable commodity, contributes almost $500 million annually to Alabama’s economy.