State Sen. Willie Simmons says he
supports fish labeling being included on restaurant menus.
"I think that the labeling is appropriate," said Simmons,
D-Clevleand. "I have done some work with the catfish growers and
arranged a meeting to discuss this issue with the Mississippi
Restaurant Association Board. We are not trying to tell business
owners what to sell, but we do want the consumer to have a
Simmons, who owns the Senator's Place restaurant in Cleveland,
said that all catfish served in his establishment is Delta-raised.
"We not only buy from the state, but also from the Delta,"
said Simmons. "We have a poster that lets our customers know that.
It is helpful to a consumer to know that they have a choice."
Fat Baby's, a catfish restaurant in Shaw, sells only catfish
raised at the Delta Pride farm in Indianola. Joey Tatum, owner of
the restaurant, said that he works as a catfish harvester and
understands the importance of supporting the Delta catfish
"I don't have a problem with the labeling at all," said Tatum.
"I buy every bit of my catfish from Delta Pride. You won't ever
get any foreign catfish here. As a catfish harvester, I know that
if (the farmers and processors) go out of business, I go out of
Roger Barlow, president of the Catfish Institute and executive
director of Catfish Farmers of America, said origin labeling
protects the consumer.
"We absolutely feel that country of origin labeling is
imperative in restaurants," said Barlow. "Every person in the
United States has the right to know where their fish comes from.
With the amount of imported fish that contains illegal and banned
substances, it is a danger to humans."
Barlow said farming conditions in Asia, a main importer of
foreign catfish, are substandard to American processes.
"There are stark differences between the conditions used in
America and those of other countries," said Barlow. "Our farmers
are regulated and offer the safest and most healthy product
For right now, consumers are left to ask restaurant owners where
the catfish on their plate was farmed.
"Whether shopping in supermarkets or sitting in restaurants,
Americans have a right to know where the catfish they buy comes
from," said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. "They should be
given the opportunity to choose between U.S. farm-raised catfish
Thompson is working with the U.S. House agriculture committee on
legislation to expand country of origin labeling to include
"People think of catfish as an American fish and naturally
assume that is what they receive when they order it from menus.
"It is an outrage that Americans who legitimately order
'catfish' or 'farm-raised catfish' in restaurants are unknowingly
eating imported catfish. Although U.S. supermarkets are required by
the federal government to state the country of origin on seafood
packaging, restaurants are not obligated to do so," Thompson said.
Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality
and Restaurant Association, said the organization supports catfish
labeling by restaurants but hopes to have some say in how a law is
"We are doing everything we can to promote that industry and we
are on the same page. We are only asking that when it comes time to
draft legislation, that the restaurant industry has an opportunity
to sit down at the table and supply input. The devil is in the
details. We are in total agreement with concept, we just want the
language as such so everyone can live with it," Cashion said.
Information from: The Bolivar Commercial,