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New Organic Seafood Rules a Win for Consumers

Oct. 10, 2005

New Organic Seafood Rules a Win for Consumers

Statement of Andrianna Natsoulas, Field Director, Public Citizen’s food program

California consumers now have one more useful tool in their toolbox when shopping at the grocery store for fish and seafood. With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature, a new bill sponsored by State Sen. Jackie Speier (D) – SB 730 – will stop all deceptive organic labeling until a legitimate U.S. Department of Agriculture-run organic certification program is in place.

Currently, no federal program exists to certify seafood and fish as organic. Despite this, seafood and fish are currently being sold under the “organic” label in California and other states. While there are industry-defined organic standards that provide guidelines for labeling “organic” fish and shellfish, these standards are confusing and have not received the scrutiny of health professionals, nor is there a vehicle to enforce these standards. Often, these standards are intended only to increase industry profits and mislead consumers.

But with the growing popularity of seafood and the organic food movement, particularly in California, consumers are increasingly vulnerable to false claims. The bill will curb these because it prohibits aquaculture products sold in California from being labeled organic if they contain any chemical known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Sen. Speier’s bill will ensure that California consumers can be confident that the seafood they buy is certifiably organic.

The USDA is currently writing organic standards for seafood, but it will take time. Until then, California consumers can now rest assured that what they read on the label is what they are getting.