The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today passed the Commercial Seafood Consumer Protection Act (S. 50), which if enacted into law would help stop seafood fraud. Below is a statement in response to today’s decision from Oceana’s campaign director and federal policy director Beth Lowell.
“Oceana applauds the Senate committee for advancing this important piece of legislation. S.50 would be a first step to stopping seafood fraud in the United States. Seafood fraud is rampant and hurts our oceans, wallets and health.
Americans should be able to track one of their most popular foods – seafood. Consumers have a right to know what they are eating and where, when and how it was caught.
Seafood fraud is ripping off honest people trying to make responsible decisions. When we pay for a certain product that’s what we expect to get.
There are simply too many federal agencies doing too little to address seafood fraud. This important act will direct federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to work more closely together, leading to better coordinated responses on seafood safety, labeling and fraud.
The Act would also increase the number of seafood testing labs, allow the U.S. to refuse seafood imports that do not meet federal requirements and provide a system for developing a list of standardized seafood names.”
S. 50 was originally introduced by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and implements several of the recommendations raised in the 2009 Government Accountability Office report entitled Seafood Fraud: FDA Program Changes and Better Collaboration among Key Federal Agencies Could Improve Detection and Prevention.
About Seafood Fraud
Oceana recently launched its new campaign to stop seafood fraud, which can come in many different forms – from mislabeling fish and falsifying documents to adding too much ice to packaging.
In a new report entitled Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health, Oceana found that while 84 percent of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported, only two percent is currently inspected and less than 0.001 percent specifically for fraud. In fact, recent studies have found that seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish like red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available.
Despite growing concern about where our food comes from, consumers are frequently served the wrong fish – a completely different species than the one they paid for. With about 1,700 different species of seafood from all over the world now available in the U.S., it is unrealistic to expect consumers to be able to independently and accurately determine what fish is really being served.
Our seafood is following an increasingly complex path from fishing vessel to processor to distributor and ultimately our plates. Seafood safety is handled by a patchwork of laws with no federal agency definitively in charge of addressing seafood fraud. Little coordination or information sharing exists within the U.S. government and many of these laws are not being fully implemented.
Oceana is calling on the federal government to make combating seafood fraud a priority, including implementing existing laws, increasing inspections, and improving coordination and information sharing among federal agencies. Oceana is also working to ensure that the seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legal and honestly labeled, including requiring a traceability scheme where information such as when, where, and how a fish is caught follows it throughout the supply chain – from boat to plate – allowing consumers to make more informed decisions about the food they eat.