Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/07/2004 06:30 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 282-RESTAURANTS ETC DISCLOSE WILD/FARMED FISH Number 0200 PAULA CADIENTE, Staff to Senator Kim Elton, Alaska State Legislature, presented SB 282 on behalf of Senator Elton, sponsor of the bill. She explained that the bill requires food service establishments that sell to the general public to identify whether fish products are wild or farmed. State law now provides for labeling in retail grocery stores, she reported. She termed the bill a consumer awareness choice issue, especially given scientific and popular press on toxin loads and other problems with industrial fish. More than half the fish consumed at the consumer level is consumed in restaurants. These consumers deserve the same "heads up" as shoppers in the grocery store, she said. This bill came out of the work of the Joint Legislative Salmon Task Force, which was comprised of processors, harvesters, public members, and legislators, she reported. The House Special Committee on Fisheries moved [SB 282] out this morning with unanimous do-pass recommendations, she concluded. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked how the fish would be identified in restaurants. MS. CADIENTE replied that they could put a little sticky note on the menu or list on the menu whether the fish is wild or farmed. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if the bill specifies how it should be done. MS. CADIENTE said it does not. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked how long the restaurants will be allowed to take to implement this policy. MS. CADIENTE replied that there is no effective date on the bill. Number 0368 ERNESTA BALLARD, Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), reported that the sponsor of the bill has been advised of several wording changes in the form of amendments that would make it possible for DEC to implement this law in a fashion consistent with existing statute and regulation. She said that they are essential to the efficiency and effectiveness of this law. She mentioned a fiscal note which has been zeroed out and the fact that without funding, DEC has no resources to implement this law. Number 0433 REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM asked, "If there are no funds available and there is not a date in place for anyone to meet the requirements, I'm assuming that we're hoping everyone goes on a good neighbor policy and just does it." COMMISSIONER BALLARD responded that with no funds "we would be unable to promulgate regulations which would advise restaurants how to comply." REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD inquired how much the fiscal note was. COMMISSIONER BALLARD said the fiscal note was $77,200 the first year and $69,300 the second year. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked why the note was so high. COMMISSIONER BALLARD replied that the fiscal note would accommodate one environmental health technician who would be hired to implement the requirements of this bill. That person's job would be to collect the menus to determine the accuracy of a statement that the fish is fresh or farmed, to inspect, and to enforce compliance. She reported that there are several- thousand food establishments that would be covered by this regulation, and it would not be a simple task. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG suggested using e-mail for public notification. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD said it seems to him that the enforcement would be from individual Alaskans who did not see [a label] on the menu. COMMISSIONER BALLARD reported that the fiscal note was prepared by [DEC] staff who have for many years enforced restaurant food requirements and who understand the workload that would be required by both customer complaints and implementing regulations, as well as enforcement and inspection to ensure that this law is complied with. Number 0654 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked if it is DEC's obligation to determine if the fish is properly identified on the menu. Could deceit be investigated, he asked. COMMISSIONER BALLARD replied that deceit is a possibility. The food safety legislation, which passed both the House and the Senate this week, extends the protections of the consumer protection attorney to this industry and to this subject matter. There would be a requirement for [DEC] staff to be aware of the deception and then the coordination with the consumer protection attorney to see if fraud and deceit were carried out. More problematic is that many of the suppliers in restaurants may not know what the source of their purchased wholesale fish product is, she reported. She said that would require DEC to be involved in determining that a statement or assertion that a product was fresh or farmed was accurate. CHAIR ANDERSON closed public testimony. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG pointed out that he heard this bill earlier today in House Special Committee on Fisheries and it seems like good public policy. He said that the fiscal note was an issue that the committee took up and decided that DEC had the discretion to decide whether or not to implement this law. He said it is important for health and economic reasons to go forward with this bill. He termed this bill as one of the better bills to come out of the [Joint Legislative Salmon Task Force] because it is good for Alaskans economically, socially, and for health reasons. Number 0798 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG moved to report CSSB 282(RES) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSSB 282 (RES), was reported out of the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.