Fresh wild caught Gulf shrimp. (Photo: Louisiana Seafood News)
New food safety law set to make Gulf seafood safer
Friday, January 07, 2011, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
In the first week of January, President Obama signed into law historic food-safety legislation that’s meant to save lives and money.
Called the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), the law aims to make farms and food manufacturers more accountable and proactive at ever step in the global food-supply chain - requiring improved traceability of foods, for example.
But a culture of food safety and traceability is nothing new to the fishermen and seafood processors within Louisiana’s seafood industry.
For more than a decade, the specific origin and path of Louisiana’s seafood has been traceable - from water to plate - through a system called Trip Tickets.
This year, the industry plans to roll out a Wild Seafood Certification Program that takes traceability a step further.
“Our goal in Louisiana, and across the Gulf, is to raise our level up to the highest standards of any fishery in the world,” says biologist Mark Schexnayder of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
“We have a great tracking system right now - it’s called Trip Tickets. Every product landed on the dock goes through the trip-ticket system. It’s enforceable. It’s backed by laws. Most places don’t have that,” he contined.
The tickets themselves tell you everything you need to know about a fish’s provenance: the dealer’s name, the fisherman’s name, license numbers, vessels numbers, trip duration and area fished.
The certification program now in the works goes a step further by setting standards for post-harvest refrigeration, handling practices and packaging, among other things.
“Certification is an arduous task,” says Schexnayder. “In Louisiana, we are working really hard to get a full certification for our Blue Crab fishery and we’re in the pre-certification process for five other species.”
Leaders within Louisiana’s seafood industry, such as Mike Voisin, owner of Motivatit Seafood, embrace the food-safety law and its protections.
By holding food producers accountable throughout the chain, the new legislation attempts to limit the number of people who get sick annually from food-borne diseases - about 48 million, or one in six Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Louisiana’s seafood workers know firsthand the value of the sorts of provisions in the law. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the industry was able to follow seafood catches - via Trip Tickets - to their source and prevent any oil-contaminated seafood from making its way to market.
By Veronica Del Bianco/Louisiana Seafood Board Newsroom