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rancher

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Canadian swordfish. Thai shrimp. American salmon.

By next week, grocery shoppers who want to know where their seafood comes from will no longer have to guess or ask because new federal regulations will require labels.

The "country of origin" labels are required as part of the Farm Bill of 2002 and will kick in at larger grocery stores across the nation Monday. They will appear on packages or on tags stuck in ice to identify all the fresh or frozen seafood that is not processed in any way, as opposed to fish sticks or crab cakes. The labels also will say whether the fish was caught in the wild or raised on a farm.

Similar country of origin labels will be required next year on other foods, from beef to vegetables. Advocates of the rules say consumers want the information for health reasons or a preference for American goods. Industry officials, however, say the new rules require record keeping throughout the supply chain, will be costly and may eventually translate into higher for consumers. But, they say, the supermarkets will be ready.

"We've been working toward compliance for the last few years," said Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant Food Inc. "It's been quite an undertaking. We get seafood from all over the world."

Scher said about 40 percent of the seafood comes from the United States and the rest comes from dozens of countries. It's bought daily through a central office in Massachusetts.

Scher and others in the industry said the record keeping will be cumbersome. The grocery retailers and suppliers have opposed the rules over the last three years because of the potential costs, which have not yet been tabulated. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which developed the regulations, is expected to delay enforcement for six months to give the industry time to adjust or to revise the rules, if necessary.

Bill Greer, a director of editorial services for the Food Marketing Institute, which represents food retailers and wholesalers, said the industry is hoping the regulations are simplified.

"Lot of debate over costs and benefits over country of origin labeling as a whole," he said. "The general feeling has been that benefits will not outweigh the costs. But it's for the consumer to decide, if he or she believes the information if valuable."

Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department, said consumers do want the information. And the rules have already been modified to lessen impact on industry, she said. They do not apply to restaurants or smaller grocers that sell less than $230,000 in goods annually. Congress also delayed the implementation of the rules last fall to give the industry more time.

And, Mattingly said, because of U.S. Customs law, grocers already know where their fish comes from.

Those laws require a host of goods that come canned, processed and fresh to be labeled for the end user. However, that means some fish that is imported and later made into a processed product in the United States is not labeled for consumers. And until next week, retailers haven't had to specify whether a fish was wild or farm raised.

For some grocers there will be virtually no changes, aside from the new record keeping. Whole Foods Market Inc., a Texas-based chain that sells natural and organic goods, has always labeled its seafood voluntarily.

"If swordfish comes from Canada one day and the next day it comes from America, we already made a distinction," he said. "In general, I think this will affect what country some others buy from, maybe make some less apt to try new things. "

But one local company that suppliers fish to supermarkets said nothing should change. Phillips Foods Inc., the Baltimore company, supplies fish as well as processed foods, such as its Maryland-style crab cakes, to groceries nationwide. Most of the food comes from Asian countries and Ecuador.

"There's definitely been an impact because of the record keeping, but we labeled before," said Melissa Sellers, the company's general counsel. "We had to comply with U.S. Customs laws for many of our products, and the new regulations only apply to fish that has not been processed in any way or breaded or covered in sauce. So we only had to add to some labels if the fish was wild- or farm-raised.
 

Big Muddy rancher

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rancher's article""There's definitely been an impact because of the record keeping, but we labeled before," said Melissa Sellers, the company's general counsel. "We had to comply with U.S. Customs laws for many of our products, and the new regulations only apply to fish that has not been processed in any way or breaded or covered in sauce. So we only had to add to some labels if the fish was wild- or farm-raised."


What good is a law that exempts most of the fish sold in the U.S. Where do most problems show up? In processed products It is easy to ID something in the whole but break it down to 300 packages.. and mix it 10 tons at a time.
Wouldn't it be best to make sure it is all safe no matter where it comes from.

:cowboy:
 

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