Chef Barton Seaver, a defender of fisheries sustainability. (Photo: bartonseaver.org)
Oceana, restaurant industry demand an end to seafood fraud
Monday, October 29, 2012, 05:40 (GMT + 9)
Oceana together with more than 500 chefs, restaurant owners and culinary leaders sent a letter this week to the US Government to require that “seafood is traceable in order to prevent seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the US market.”
Led by sustainable chef Barton Seaver, the letter includes signatories from nearly all 50 states, including top chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon, who are all “committed to serving seafood that protects our oceans, our wallets and our health.”
“Seafood mislabelling is one of the most important issues currently facing the culinary industry,” said Seaver, National Geographic Fellow and author of 'For Cod and Country.' “It’s an honour to join this list of distinguished names in a plea for a nationwide traceability system that will not only help preserve ocean ecosystems for future generations, but will also increase profits and keep illegal fish out of our restaurants.”
Consumers are frequently served mislabelled fish: recent studies show that seafood may be mislabelled as often as 25 to 70 per cent of the time for commonly-swapped species like red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available. Oceana and other groups have recently revealed shocking levels of mislabelling in areas in Boston (48 per cent), Los Angeles (55 per cent) and Miami (31 per cent).
“These chefs and restaurant owners are taking a stand and saying, ‘Enough is enough. We need better information about our seafood in the US. We need traceability,’” declared Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “Tracing our seafood from boat to plate is the only way to ensure that it’s safe, legal and honestly labelled.”
Two weeks ago, US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote to Dr Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging the agency to fortify its enforcement efforts to deal with the alarmingly high occurrence of seafood fraud.
“It is unacceptable that proven fraud is occurring on such a widespread basis. Seafood fraud is not only deceptive marketing, but it can also pose serious health concerns, particularly for pregnant women seeking to limit exposure to heavy metals or individuals with serious allergies to certain types of fish,” Boxer wrote.
Oceana is currently building support for the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act (H.R. 6200) introduced by Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA) and Barney Frank (D-MA) in July. The legislation would help stop seafood fraud by requiring full traceability for all seafood sold in the US.
By Natalia Real