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Lawmakers consider bill to require stricter seafood labeling

A pile of freshly-caught shrimp lays on a table on fisherman Donald Dardar's boat floating just south of Pointe-aux-Chenes, Louisiana.
Halle Parker
A pile of freshly-caught shrimp lays on a table on fisherman Donald Dardar's boat floating just south of Pointe-aux-Chenes, Louisiana.

This story was produced by the LSU Manship School News Service.

The House Health and Welfare Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that would require seafood sellers to clearly market whether the seafood is local or imported from other countries like China.

Sen. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, showed an image of a package of frozen crawfish sold at a local supermarket. Connick explained that the item named “Boudreaux’s Crawfish” was not from Louisiana but instead a product of China.

“They are using our label, our name, our image, our culture,” Connick said. “But it’s Chinese shrimp, Chinese crawfish.”

Connick, understanding that lawmakers cannot infringe upon commercial speech, hopes to make the Louisiana seafood industry safer and more transparent.

“We cannot say ‘you can’t do this,” but if they’re going to sell it, they’ve got to make sure that we know where it’s coming from,” Connick said.

Officials could not immediately be reached for comment at a company in Westwego, a suburb of New Orleans, that distributes the crawfish under the Boudreaux’s name. Despite the Cajun-sounding name, the packages do say “Product of China” in the lower right corner.

Nationally, 80 to 90% of seafood is imported, with half of that being farm-raised, according to the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Louisiana is the second-largest seafood producer in the United States.

The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that imported seafood could potentially have risks because the federal Food and Drug Administration does not have the resources to adequately inspect and test all imported seafood.

Connick felt like this was a commerce issue as well as a health issue. He cited an Associated Press article that highlighted unethical working conditions for Indian shrimp processors.

Despite issues with safety for workers and quality of the seafood, the U.S. continues to import Indian shrimp.

“People need to know if you’re going to buy this cheap product, there’s a chance that it’s contaminated, that it’s been tested, and that your health can be affected by it,” Connick emphasized. “So it’s more of the connection to the product and how this might affect our constituents being connected to wherever this product comes from.”

Connick’s proposal is one of a group of bills moving through the Legislature this spring to increase fees and safety checks on imported seafood, both for consumer safety and to help Louisiana shrimpers and crawfish farmers, whose supplies have been reduced by extreme weather conditions.

If this bill were to become law, packaging for imported seafood would have to clearly advertise it as such starting Jan. 1, 2025.

“So just be fair,” Connick said. “Just don’t mislead us. All they need to do is put a stamp on the front.”