Bill Banning "Organic" Claims on Seafood
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Tracy Fairchild
October 11, 2005 (916) 651-4008
GOV. SIGNS SPEIER BILL BANNING
“ORGANIC” CLAIMS ON SEAFOOD
Sacramento—Deceptive labeling on seafood will be put to a halt in California by January now that Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed SB 730 by State Senator Jackie Speier.
There are currently no federal or state organic certification standards in place for fish and seafood. This has not stopped producers and merchants, however, from slapping labels onto fish and seafood products proclaiming them to be “organic.” “California consumers deserve to know the truth about what they are eating and I am delighted that the Governor agrees,” said Speier (D-San Mateo/San Francisco). “Labeling seafood as ‘organic’ in the absence of any state or federal certification standards is misleading, confusing and soon will be illegal,” Speier added.
Seafood and fish are being sold under the ‘organic’ label in California today, including several farmed varieties from Scotland and British Columbia where increasing numbers of so-called ‘organic’ seafood are raised. What many consumers fail to realize is that these products do not necessarily conform to the definition of organic that they have come to expect when purchasing meat and produce.
A March 2005 nationwide online survey of 1,200 U.S. adults conducted by Consumers Union found that nearly half of consumers buy organic food. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed expect fish and seafood products sold as organic to be free of contaminants such as mercury and PCBs.
Within the past year, the United States Department of Agriculture formed two aquaculture task forces to begin to develop organic standards for aquaculture but has yet to propose or finalize formal certification standards. As a result of this federal delay, "organic" seafood and fish are not required to meet any standards, have not been evaluated for toxic contaminant levels, and continue to be sold to consumers at a premium price. "Until a national organic standard is set, any organic label on seafood is meaningless. I’m thankful that the Governor signed this bill so that California can remain a leader in producing organic foods, and the integrity of the organic label is protected.” A fact sheet on SB 730 follows this release.
SB 730 FACT SHEET
· The USDA has yet to adopt organic certification standards for seafood and fish products, as it has for produce, meat and poultry.
· If enacted, California would become the first state in the nation to place a ban on the use of the “organic” label on all seafood and fish products sold in the state until a federal or state standard is set.
· The lack of standards has prompted some retailers, most notably Whole Foods, to discontinue the sale of so called “organic seafood” until the USDA establishes organic certification standards.
· Most “organic seafood” products currently sold in California are imported from Canada, Europe, and Southeast Asia and include farmed varieties of salmon and shrimp which researchers have shown pose a significant health risk due to the high levels of contaminants and pesticides (i.e. PCB’s, dioxins, mercury) that have been found in these products.
· Canned tuna, which is required to carry a Proposition 65 warning for mercury levels, could also be labeled as "organic" and consumers could be easily misled to believe it is safer.
· A recent nationwide online survey conducted by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, found that nearly half of all consumers buy organic food and almost two-thirds of respondents said that they do not expect contaminants in seafood and fish that are labeled “organic.”