Vitter Testifies at U.S.-China Commission on Seafood Safety and Trade
Introduces Legislation to Improve Safety of Seafood Imports and Level Playing Field for Domestic Producers
U.S. Sen. David Vitter today testified at the U.S. - China Economic and Security Review Commission's hearing in New Orleans on Chinese Seafood Safety and Trade Issues.
"The seafood industry is very important to Louisiana's economy, and we must do all that we can to prevent the import of seafood into our country that is tainted, damaged or spoiled," said Vitter. "By assuring that all imports comply with existing federal and state guidelines, we can better protect American consumers and the Louisiana families who depend on this industry for their way of life."
According to the LSU Ag Center, in 2007 Louisiana produced almost $171 million in total product value from aquaculture. From marine fisheries, the total is almost $227 million. Louisiana is second only to Alaska in the nation's domestically-produced seafood.
"We need a fair, even playing field to help this industry thrive. Of course that must include adequate health and safety measures for imports, just as we enforce those measures for domestic seafood. But right now, we don't have that level playing field, especially for imports from China," Vitter said.
Seafood producers from China and other countries use chemical treatments that are not approved for use in the United States. Yesterday, Vitter introduced a bill to enhance the safety of imported seafood into the United States. The Imported Seafood Safety Enhancement Act of 2008 would require the secretary of Health and Human Services to refuse entry to any shipment of seafood products that is determined to violate the standards of the Federal Food, Cosmetic and Drug Act or any other federal law regarding food safety. Vitter's bill also adds additional provisions to prevent the importation of seafood that has been previously rejected for admission.
"If a shipment of seafood is rejected by officials at a local port, current notification procedures are too slow to effectively prevent that cargo from being routed to another facility," Vitter said. "My bill would require that those shipments to be clearly labeled as having been refused entry by the government to prevent offenders from port shopping' for an additional point of entry."
Vitter's bill would require rejected shipments of seafood to be labeled as having been refused entry and require that the secretary of Health and Human Services to issue notice within five days ‑ up from the average of 348 days that it takes now ‑ to all U.S. ports of entry if an importer attempts to bring a rejected shipment into the country.
Vitter also highlighted a bill he is developing that would use antidumping and countervailing duties on seafood from the People's Republic of China to increase safety testing of Chinese seafood.
Vitter serves as a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation which oversees issues relating to fisheries and trade.