Search Our Site...


Crawfish dealers welcome COOL

January 16, 2009

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said Louisiana crawfish producers and processors welcome the March 16 implementation of the USDA’s mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) program as good news.

In addition to crawfish, the measure dictates that all meats, including muscle cuts, ground beef, lamb, chicken, goat, pork and wild farm-raised fish and shellfish, must be clearly labeled with information that tells the consumer where the product came from.

“The Louisiana consumer will be able to easily identify the country of origin of the crawfish they are buying in the supermarket,” Strain said.

David Savoy, president of the Crawfish Farmers Association, said his group has been pushing for the measure for more than four years.

“The COOL rules will help promote our Louisiana crawfish,” Savoy said. “It will make everyone aware that our product is homegrown Louisiana crawfish as opposed to Chinese crawfish.”

Savoy said packs of Chinese crawfish sold in supermarkets are often labeled with common Cajun Louisiana names to create the impression the product is from the Pelican State.

Under the new USDA COOL measure, such product will have to be clearly labeled as Product of China.

Louisiana crawfish producers and processors have long complained that Chinese crawfish dealers are using unfair trade practices to flood seafood markets and undercut the value of homegrown crawfish.

Chinese labor costs are significantly lower than Louisiana’s and often frozen Chinese crawfish may be found in supermarkets at prices cheaper than domestic crawfish, Savoy said.

Many Louisiana crawfish processors have gone out of business during the last 15 years because of the cheap crawfish imports, 95 percent of which come from China, Savoy added.

Savoy said there are certain health risks associated with Chinese crawfish.

“Over there the water is so polluted that antibiotics are added to keep the crawfish from dying,” Savoy said.

Chloramphenicol, an antibiotic banned in food substances by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is often found in imported Chinese crawfish, Savoy said.

“Our ponds and crawfish have been tested repeatedly and no harmful substances have ever been found,” Savoy said. “There is really no testing in China for banned substances.”

In addition to the USDA COOL rules, a new state law makes it unlawful for a Louisiana restaurant to misrepresent the crawfish or shrimp they serve as Louisiana-raised if it’s not.

State Representative Fred Mills of Breaux Bridge said the restaurant customer has a right to know where the crawfish dish he or she is buying comes from.

“The Louisiana crawfish is a good local commodity and when you eat it you’ll know what you’re getting,” Mills said. “Ask before you eat if the crawfish is Louisiana crawfish. The law says they have to tell you.”

USDA announced the details of the final regulation for the mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) program required by the 2002 and 2008 farm bills on January 15.

The full text of the final rule will be published in the Jan. 15 Federal Register and the rule becomes effective March 16.

In addition to meat products, the rule covers perishable agricultural commodities (specifically fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables); macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng and peanuts.

Commodities covered under COOL must be labeled at retail to indicate its country of origin.

For fish and shellfish, the method of production — wild or farm-raised — must be specified.

Commodities are excluded from mandatory COOL if the commodity is an ingredient in a processed food item.

The definition of a processed food item remains unchanged from the Aug. 1, 2008, interim final rule. Excluded from COOL labeling are items derived from a covered commodity that has undergone a physical or chemical change — such as cooking, curing, or smoking — or that has been combined with other covered commodities or other substantive food components such as chocolate, breading and tomato sauce.

Also exempt are food service establishments, such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, lounges and similar enterprises.

The final rule outlines the requirements for labeling covered commodities and the recordkeeping requirements for retailers and suppliers. The law provides for penalties of up to $1,000 per violation for both retailers and suppliers not complying with the law.

The rule prescribes specific criteria that must be met for a covered commodity to bear a “United States country of origin” declaration. In addition, the rule also contains provisions for labeling covered commodities of foreign origin, meat products from multiple origins, ground meat products, as well as commingled covered commodities.

USDA plans to make funding available to accelerate and expand training of state cooperator employees, initiate development of an automated review tracking system, conduct a retailer survey, conduct audits of the retail supply chain and continue conducting education and outreach activities.

Currently, USDA has cooperative agreements with 42 states to conduct retail surveillance reviews. USDA will conduct the retail reviews in the states not covered by a cooperative agreement and perform the supply chain audits.

Copies of the final rule and additional information are available at