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November 17, 2014

Seafood Fraud is in the News…Again

  • Food Fraud

By InstantLabs

By Lauren Bambusch

As the release date for InstantLabs’ new InstantID™ species identification test kits nears, I can’t help but notice how often instances of seafood fraud have been in the press lately.  From yellowtail to catfish to shrimp, it seems you can’t open a newspaper and not read about another case of mislabeled seafood.  Here’s a short list of some of the most recent articles that caught my eye.

Forbes.com – Seafood Deception: What’s Wrong With Your Shrimp

TriplePundit.com – Sustainable Seafood at SXSW Eco: A Tale of Two Fisheries

Huffington Post – Study Reveals Seafood Fraud in Shrimp

Seafood fraud is a growing problem; with an estimated 33% of seafood mislabeled by the time it enters the consumer market1, consumers are no longer confident they are getting what they pay for.  It’s an increasingly difficult problem to track because 84% of seafood eaten in the United States is imported2.  Suppliers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers—the more times the fish changes hands in the global seafood supply chain, the harder it is to narrow down when and where the mislabeling happened1.  That substitution is costing you at the dinner table—substitute just one 8-ounce filet of lower-cost tilapia for high-quality grouper, for example, ends up costing you more than double what it’s worth3 .

And it’s not just a matter of economics—it’s also a matter of ocean and consumer health.  Illegally caught and unreported fish can damage the natural ecosystem of the area it was fished from, and can lead to endangerment of a species4.  These fish are then flushed into the seafood supply chain and are often mislabeled to hide their illegal origin.  This illegally caught and mislabeled fish may then be high in mercury or other contaminants that are bad for human health5.

It’s time to protect the consumer and the industry—support the SAFE Seafood Act.

1. Kimberly Warner PhD, Walker Timme, Beth Lowell, and Michael Hirshfield PhD. Oceana Study Reveals Seafood Fraud Nationwide.  February 2013.
2. Janet Loehrke and Denny Gainer. Fishy fakes common in restaurants. 21 February 2013. USA TODAY.
3. Graphic. Cost of Seafood Fraud. Oceana.
4. World Ocean Review. Fisheries: Illegal Fishing. Accessed 17 November 2014.
5. Gretchen Goetz. Seafood Fraud: A Threat to Your Health, or Just Your Pocketbook? 14 December 2012. Food Safety News

Lauren Bambusch is a microbiologist by trade as well as a writer and baker by hobby. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, three cats, a super-sized mutt, and a school of fish, all of whom root for her Alma mater, Michigan State. Go Green!