Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/29/2004 09:05 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 282(RES) "An Act relating to the identification of finfish in food products and to the misbranding of food products consisting of or containing finfish." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. Co-Chair Wilken noted that this bill would require retail restaurants to specify on their menus whether the finfish being offered for consumption were farmed or wild fish. He pointed out that the Senate Resources version of the bill, Version 23-LS1213\Q, is before the Committee for consideration. SENATOR KIM ELTON, the bill's sponsor, stated that he is carrying the legislation on behalf of the Joint Legislative Salmon Task Force, which unanimously approved it. This bill would require restaurant menus to specify whether the fish being served are wild or farmed. Currently, grocery store labeling must include this information. This bill would simply extend that concept to restaurants. Consumer awareness and consumer choice are important issues, especially given the fact that toxicity levels being found in fish are being discussed in the scientific and popular arena. Many people prefer to eat fish at restaurants as opposed to preparing it at home, as they feel that a restaurant has more expertise than they do in this regard. Senator Elton stated that the Joint Legislative Salmon Task Force is comprised of processors, Legislators, and public members. One question that arose during the bill's Senate Resources Committee hearing was in regards to the restaurant industry's reaction to the legislation. Only one restaurant has voiced the concern that this labeling would incur additional costs; however, he opined that because most fish is served fresh in restaurants, the information would be on the daily or fresh menu as opposed to a printed menu. Co-Chair Green asked regarding definition language in Section 2, subsection (b)(1) and (2) on page three, following line 23, in that while the definition of farmed fish is detailed, the definition of fish is limited. The language in question, reads as follows. (1) "farmed fish" means fish that is propagated, farmed, or cultivated in a facility that grows, farms, or cultivates the fish in captivity or under positive control but that is not a salmon hatchery that is owned by the state or that holds a salmon hatchery permit under AS 16.10.400; in this paragraph, "positive control" has the meaning given in AS 16.40.199; (2) "fish" means finfish; Senator Elton understood that finfish is defined elsewhere in State Statute. Continuing, he communicated that one definition of "finfish" are those fish that are not shellfish. Co-Chair Green asked for further clarification. Senator Elton noted that, "for the purposes of this legislation, fish is finfish and not shellfish." Co-Chair Green asked whether the fish being referenced in Section 2, subsection (b)(2), on page three, line 30 is defined in current State Statute or is specific to language in this legislation. Senator Elton responded that the definition of fish is defined elsewhere in State Statute. ELISE HSIEH, Assistant Attorney General, Environmental Section, Civil Division (Anchorage), Department of Law, testified via teleconference from an offnet site and explained that "finfish," is a commonly used term, which is included in the Department of Fish and Game Chapter Title 16. She stated that finfish, shellfish, and fish by-products are included in "the broader term, seafood." Therefore, she supported Senator Elton's position "that finfish is different than shellfish." Co-Chair Green questioned the need to include the Section 2 definition language in the legislation, as the intent of the bill is to address the difference between wild fish or farmed fish and not to define "fish" as opposed to shellfish. Senator Elton expressed that the inclusion of the "fish" definition is the result of being "overly cautious" in its attempt to clarify what finfish is in regards to the intent of this bill. Co-Chair Wilken understood that the intent of the fish definition would be to distinguish that the bill would not affect things such as oysters. Senator Elton concurred, and noted that "a more common" example would be shrimp, as the majority of the shrimp that is imported into the United States is farmed. Co-Chair Wilken asked regarding the reason that schools and correctional facilities are excluded from the disclosure requirement denoted in Section 2, subsection (4) (B) and (C) on page four, lines nine and eleven respectfully. Senator Elton responded that the intent of this legislation is to focus on businesses serving the open public rather than on those that do not. While he would not be opposed to the inclusion of those entities exempted in Section 2, subsection (4), it might prove awkward were, for instance, British Petroleum (BP) required to provide signage in its North Slope employee cafeteria. Co-Chair Wilken acknowledged the explanation. Co-Chair Wilken ordered the bill HELD in Committee.