In 2010, Americans consumed almost 6 billions pounds of seafood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that the nation’s food supply, including seafood, is safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. That is a tough task considering 80% of the seafood we eat is imported from countries all over the world. Unfortunately, the reality is that seafood fraud is common. Moreover, it can have not only economic, but food safety, consequences.
According to a February 2009 GAO Report provided to the United States Congress which criticized the FDA for its lack of enforcement:
The most common types of seafood fraud are:
1. shipping products through an intermediary country to avoid customs duties (transshipping),
2. adding excess amounts of water or ice to the seafood to increase its weight (over-treating),
3. substituting a different species of seafood for the species listed on the label (species substitution), and
4. including less seafood in a package than indicated by the label (short-weighting).
Read this typical January 20, 2011 Press Release from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding a company that pled guilty to false labeling of imported fish. Read this typical Warning Letter from the FDA against a seafood company for misbranding its shrimp.
The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January 2011, is a step in the right direction to give the FDA the legal authority to prevent, not just respond to, seafood fraud. As FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg stated in a recent press release:
This law represents a sea change for food safety in America, bringing a new focus on prevention, and I expect that in the coming years it will have a dramatic and positive effect on the safety of the food supply.
The topics of seafood fraud and the Food Safety Modernization Act will be discussed in detail at the "Food Safety Reform Update" panel at the International Boston Seafood Show on Sunday, March 20, 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. Learn how to prevent seafood fraud, how to detect seafood fraud, and what to do if you or your company are under investigation by the FDA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for seafood or other import fraud.