Seafood Labeling Fraud Initiatives

You might take for granted that the fresh, local seafood you buy at the grocery store is just that–fresh and local. However, seafood-labeling fraud is rampant in the United States. According to studies cited by the federal government, 95 percent of seafood sold in the U.S. is imported, and up to 33 percent of seafood sold by retailers is mislabeled. Now, state and federal lawmakers are taking steps to make sure that the type and origin of seafood you are purchasing is reflected correctly on the label.

One such law, recently introduced in the South Carolina general assembly, would make it a misdemeanor to mislabel seafood sold in the state. Similar bills have been introduced in Maryland and Washington, DC, with the latter requiring seafood to be labeled with its most common name to avoid misleading customers.

On a national scale, Congress is currently reviewing the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, a bipartisan bill designed to “improve interagency cooperation on seafood safety and fraud prevention.” Among other provisions, the bill will manage the implementation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Seafood Inspection Program, allow states to prosecute importers and others for seafood violations, improve the Food and Drug Administration’s categorization records of standardized names for seafood, and require detailed sourcing information to be available to retail consumers at the point of sale. According to a summary of the bill, “the Government Accountability Office estimates that only 2 percent of seafood imported into the U.S. is inspected, and that only 0.001 percent is inspected for seafood fraud.”

One conservation group, Oceana, tested the DNA of 120 pieces of fish that were being sold as red snapper and found that only seven of the samples were actually red snapper. Customers frequently pay more money for fish that they believe to be fresh and local, or that they believe to be a higher quality, more expensive type of seafood than they are actually getting.

In addition to being fraudulent, mislabeling of seafood can pose a risk to pregnant women who must avoid ingesting fish that contains mercury that is dangerous to unborn children.

Sources:
http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/520
http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/03/rep-market-introduces-safe-seafood-act-to-combat-fish-fraud/ – .U1aM1PldUkM