ALABAMA CONSUMERS TO RESTAURANTS: "SHOW ME THE LABEL!"
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- 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 Farmers Federation Catfish Division Director Mitt Walker said the survey proves what producers have claimed for some time -- consumers want to know where their food comes from and if given the choice will select food produced by U.S. farmers.
"Alabama is a major producer of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish," said Walker. " Sixty-three percent of our state's consumers eat some or most of their catfish in restaurants, according to our research. That means that a majority of catfish consumers have no way of knowing where the catfish they eat is produced."
Although U.S. law requires that seafood sold in grocery stores must clearly display the product's origin, currently there is no federal legislation requiring such a disclosure for restaurants. In recent years, other states have enacted successful Country-of-Origin Labeling legislation for catfish, most recently Arkansas and Mississippi.
State Rep. A.J. McCampbell (D-Demopolis) plans to sponsor legislation that will require Alabama restaurants to disclose the origin of the catfish served to its customers.
"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.
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."
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.
The survey carries a margin of error of +/- 5.77 percent and was conducted by Conquest Communications Group of Richmond, VA, on December 8-11, 2008. The Catfish Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry, funded the survey. The Jackson, Miss., -based organization was founded in 1986 by catfish feed mills and their producer members with the goal of raising consumer awareness about the benefits of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish.