Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/29/2004 09:05 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                            
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                                                            
          (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.                                                                             

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