Delta restaurants support fish labeling on menus

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

and imports."

Thompson is working with the U.S. House agriculture committee on

legislation to expand country of origin labeling to include

restaurant menus.

"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,