The Louisiana Department of Health found that more than 150 seafood restaurants throughout Louisiana violated a labeling law in September intended to inform customers about the origins of the fruits-de-mer they are served. The restaurants in violation of the labeling law are mostly located in the state's southeast (including Baton Rouge and New Orleans) and the businesses did not inform customers that they served imported crawfish and shrimp caught outside the U.S. in locations that included Chinese waters, according to an article in The Advocate.
More than 3,200 routine inspections were conducted between Sept. 1 and Sept. 27 in the state, with 159 found to have violated The Crawfish and Shrimp Menu Labeling Law (Act 372), which went into effect at the start of the month, according to the Advocate.
The violations are considered "non-critical" in relation to public health concerns and there is no associated fine, although establishments with five violations must undergo re-inspection. Those that do not comply with the law are, however, in violation of Louisiana's sanitary code, according to ABC WGNO.
State Rep. Jerry Gisclair told The Advocate that he understood that there were "millions and millions of pounds" of shrimp in freezers in restaurants around the state that owners had to deal with when the law went into effect, but argued that "an imported shrimp is imported." Gisclair said that the purpose of the law is not to "stop restaurants from selling imported products," but rather, simply to empower customers' purchasing decisions, especially with regards to their eating habits.
Employee explanations as to why imported food was not labeled as such at restaurants found in violation included: the storage of imported crawfish as a backup source and a mix-up with ordering in which Chinese shrimp had been sent instead of locally-sourced catches, according to The Advocate.
According to ABC, restaurants comply with the law if they are able to place notices near the crawfish or shrimp menu items that tell customers the origins of where they were caught. Notices must be in the same style, color and size of the font on the menu itself and can be paper clipped to the menu as well. Restaurants that do not use a menu can post notices at the entrance.
"I think they passed the law without getting everybody involved. I don't think the wholesalers were ready," the owner of one restaurant found in violation of the new law told The Advocate.