Chains again to sell rockfish Glendening lobbies market executives on seafood safety

'Balanced approach' sought

Giant, Valu Food, Graul's instituted ban amid Pfiesteria scare

September 26, 1997|By Michael Dresser and Marcia Myers | Michael Dresser and Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Liz Bowie contributed to this article.

After some old-fashioned jawboning by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, three supermarket chains agreed yesterday to restore Maryland rockfish to some of the stores from which it had been banished because of concern about a fish-killing microorganism.

"I asked for a more balanced approach," Glendening said yesterday about his calls to executives of the companies. "We've worked with these corporations. Now it's time for them to work with us."

The governor said: "I want to reassure people that Maryland seafood is indeed safe."

Barry F. Scher, vice president for public affairs of the Landover-based Giant Food Inc. chain, said Glendening called Pete L. Manos, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, yesterday to urge that it resume selling Maryland rockfish.

"We are reconsidering our position and have agreed to make rockfish available in 75 of our stores, starting Monday, in limited quantities in an effort to help the Maryland seafood industry," Scher said.

Executives of Valu Food and Graul's also agreed to restock their shelves with Maryland rockfish.

"I commend these three well-respected firms for taking this very responsible approach," Glendening said late yesterday.

Pfiesteria piscicida, a virulent microorganism, is blamed for neurological problems in humans, and for killing thousands of fish in Chesapeake waterways and a billion fish in North Carolina in recent years. As attention to the problem grew this summer, so did the public's anxiety about eating seafood from the bay.

Officials at Valu Food, a 21-store Baltimore chain, said this week that they had bought no Maryland seafood for three weeks. Graul's, a four-store chain, boasted on signs that its fish were not from the Chesapeake.

The reversal by the three grocery chains gave Glendening a significant victory on a day the governor devoted almost entirely to Pfiesteria.

After testifying on Capitol Hill in the morning, Glendening flew to Cambridge, where he and his Cabinet members lunched on crab soup and broiled rockfish at Snapper's, a waterside restaurant.

"I would not ask anyone to do something I myself wouldn't do," he said. "We have every medical expert you can imagine, from around the country, working with us, and no one has any evidence of anyone eating fish and getting ill from Pfiesteria," he said.

"I am going to be healthy this afternoon, I am going to be healthy tomorrow, and I am going to be healthy for weeks to come," he said before lunch.

The state health secretary, Dr. Martin P. Wasserman, issued an open letter to Maryland consumers yesterday, saying he is confident that Maryland's seafood remains safe and wholesome. will stake my professional credibility on this point," he wrote.

Glendening said a marketing campaign to bolster state seafood sales is in the works.

"I hope this will make a lot of difference," said Joe Clayton, who, with his brothers, runs a 107-year-old family fish and crab business in Cambridge. He described the economic impact of the Pfiesteria scare on his business as "significant."

"This has hurt us, and it's unfounded," said Clayton, whose business was visited by Glendening yesterday. "There is a beautiful stock of fish out there to be enjoyed."

This week, Giant spokesman Scher said the company stopped buying Maryland rockfish Sept. 6, after demand plummeted, forcing it to dump much of its inventory. Like many seafood sellers, Giant has seen sales slump badly amid widespread publicity about outbreaks of Pfiesteria.

Scher said yesterday that the rockfish will be Maryland-caught, not farm-raised. He said Giant will post signs in stores that carry the rockfish, calling attention to the fact the fish is available.

Scher said the 75 stores will be ones with a strong record of rockfish sales. He said many stores in the 174-store chain do not usually carry rockfish.

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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