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Country of origin labeling law aims at protecting local farmers

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Consumers will be able to make more informed decisions when purchasing certain fish products in Mississippi due to changes in the Mississippi Catfish Marketing Law, according to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce.

The new law, which went into effective yesterday, requires food service establishments to inform consumers of the country of origin and method of production of basa, swai, and tra as well as catfish. The Mississippi Catfish Marketing Law previously required that food service establishments, which include restaurants, cafeterias, lunch rooms, food stands, saloons, taverns, bars, lounges, snack bars, delis, or other similar facilities engaged in the business of selling food to the public, provide the consumer with the country of origin and method of production of catfish.

Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith strongly advocated for the passage of this Law during the 2013 Legislative Session.

“Consumers want to know where their food is coming from so they can make informed decisions when making food choices for them and their families. This law will allow them to do just that. Federal law mandates country of origin labeling for catfish, basa, swai, and tra, in grocery stores, and, now, consumers will also be able to know the source of their catfish, basa, swai or tra in Mississippi restaurants,” said Hyde-Smith.

The following are the labeling requirements for catfish, basa, swai, and tra in food service establishments:

• The menu must contain a statement of the country of origin and the method of production adjacent to the product listing on the menu. “Menu” includes any listing of food and beverage options for a diner or customer to select from regardless of its form.

• If the catfish, basa, swai, or tra served by the food service establishment is produced in the United States, then the country of origin and method of production information may be generally disclosed by the food service establishment in a prominent location, such as a wall sign or table tent.

The MDAC is charged with enforcing the Law in food service establishments. The law provides that the department may take administrative action, including administrative penalties and stop sales, for failure to comply with the Law.

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