Fixing fish fraud


Gavin Gibbons

Published on
October 28, 2011

A handful of reporters have over the past week shined a rather bright media light on the issue of economic integrity in the seafood industry.

From those reports have come a generous amount of commentary, legislative musings and consumer hand wringing. The brush strokes that illustrate this fish fraud for readers often paint a picture of the Wild West where regulation is nonexistent and white hats are few and far between. But let’s be clear, there are easily identifiable seafood providers who are and have been committed to fighting fish fraud for the last five years. They are members of National Fisheries Institute (NFI), all of whom support the Better Seafood Board (BSB).

In what some might consider a near regulatory vacuum, NFI members chose to stand apart and up for economic integrity. They are companies that are committed not just to putting the right fish, at the right weight, in the right box but to contributing to a long term fix by supporting efforts to make sure the Food and Drug Administration is fully funded.

As the Boston Globe, Consumer Reports and National Public Radio reported on this story, no BSB members were singled out as questionable suppliers. A fact NPR went to great lengths to note: “No members of the Better Seafood Board, which was formed to help eliminate fraud in the seafood industry, were implicated in the Globe investigation.” In fact, quite the opposite. When one restaurant had the opportunity to publically right its mislabeling wrong it chose a BSB member as its new supplier. 

Restaurants and retailers should know there are white hats among us and looking for them isn’t that difficult.

When it comes to this issue, we need to be careful in assigning blame to certain parts of the supply chain because we all have a responsibility to ensure mislabeling is eradicated. The fundamental conclusion of the Consumer Reports investigation was that, by and large, the fish in question was “misidentified by store or restaurant employee(s).” The BSB is committed to working with restaurants and retailers that have questions about labeling or concerns about fish fraud.

Don’t be passive when it comes to economic integrity, ask your suppliers, look for the BSB seal — it might not be as shiny as Wyatt Earp’s badge but it conveys the same message.

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