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Seafood COOL Law Begins This Week

WASHINGTON -- Beginning this week, U.S. retailers must now place country-of-origin labels on seafood they sell, a requirement put in place by a 2002 USDA labeling law.

Under the law, shoppers must be told the origin of fish and shellfish offered for sale and whether they were raised on a farm or caught in the wild. Vendors can put the information on each package or on signs in their display cases.

The 2002 labeling law initially called on the Agriculture Department to issue rules for mandatory country-of-origin labels on red meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and peanuts by Sept. 30, 2004. Congress has delayed the requirement for two years for all of the products except seafood.

When the USDA issued the seafood rules last Oct. 4, it gave the industry six months to get ready for the new system and to clear out unlabeled inventory.

Environmental Defense senior scientist Dr. Rebecca Goldburg said the requirements "are a boon for seafood consumers. Not all fish are created equal, and now shoppers will be able to know what they are buying. A whopping 78 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and shoppers may incorrectly assume that fish they buy is locally caught. Crawfish in Louisiana is often imported from China, crab sold in Maryland is frequently imported from Asia, and shrimp can come from just about anywhere."

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