Q: What is seafood fraud and how might it affect your business?
A: Seafood fraud can occur in many different forms, but the most prevalent today is the “bait and switch,” when seafood is intentionally mislabeled. A processor or distributor may swap an expensive species with a cheaper, more abundant one for financial gain – for example, wild salmon and farmed Atlantic salmon are difficult to distinguish, and the cost differential can sometimes be as much as 65% per pound. As much as 80% of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and only about 2% is inspected by any sort of regulatory agency. Recent studies indicate that as much as one third of all seafood in the United States is currently being mislabeled, and this includes both fresh and frozen cuts. Apart from lining the pockets of bait and switch perpetrators, incorrect labels lead to serious health concerns for consumers. Additionally, chefs pay for high quality seafood that they do not, in the end, receive.
These high impact public health and commercial consequences have prompted food providers along with the FDA to take proactive measures to ensure that seafood is safe and correctly labeled. The FDA, in partnership with state agencies and the Department of Commerce, maintain “The Seafood List,” wherein you can find acceptable names for seafood on the US market. They have developed the “Regulatory Fish Encyclopedia” in order to help chefs spot a mislabeled species. The FDA has also compiled a public database of DNA sequences for popular seafood species so that members of the seafood industry can verify private DNA testing.
Mitigating the Risks of Seafood Fraud: Our Recommendations
Unfortunately, the FDA has neither the jurisdiction nor the resources to inspect the food that makes it onto consumers’ plates thoroughly. You may use the FDA resources like the ones listed above to differentiate between species. At Avendra, we speak directly to distributors to find out where the seafood is coming from. We visit suppliers and document receiving logs and product tags to ensure that the fish coming in is legal and safe. We perform surprise audits to ensure that products are labeled correctly by hiring third-party seafood DNA testers. Seafood is traded on a world market, and there are currently 1,700 different species available for sale in the United States; DNA testing is the only way to know with certainty that you are getting the correct product.
If you suspect a supplier of seafood fraud, report them to the “Better Seafood Board,” sponsored by the National Fisheries Institute. Seafood fraud is now being prosecuted by the US Department of Justice under the Lacey Act, which regulates the commercial exchange of plants and animals, especially seafood.
Discovering bait and switches can be difficult for even highly trained experts, but by demanding transparency in your supply chain, and by leaning on governmental agencies and regulations, you and your customers can avoid the perils of seafood fraud.
These are just a few examples of how Avendra helps its customers secure and assure its supply chain. For more information, Avendra customers can login to myAvendra or contact CustomerService@avendra.com. Those interested in becoming Avendra customers can fill out our Prospective Customer Request form, and an Avendra representative will be in touch to discuss your unique needs.