Head of Korean seafood firm brought to trial after selling fishing bait to restaurants

A pile of fishing bait sold by the head of a Korean firm
The head of a Korean firm that sold fishing bait as food-grade anchovies to restaurants is facing trial | Photo courtesy of Korea Ministry of Food and Drug Safety
2 Min

The head of a South Korean seafood distribution business has been brought to trial for allegedly selling imported fishing bait as food to restaurants.

The Republic of Korea Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said the unnamed distributor purchased 28 tons of frozen anchovies from Mexico graded as fishing bait and then sold them to restaurants on the tourist destination of Jeju Island.

The Food and Drug Crime Investigation Department of the Seoul Western District Prosecutors' Office announced on 22 June the executive faces trial without detention for violations of food hygiene laws.

Because of the alleged deception, the anchovies were not subject to a normal food inspection process, meaning they were not examined for potential contamination of toxic ingredients such as lead, cadmium, mercury, benzopyrene, or histamine.

"We will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to ensure the safety of domestic distributed foods,” the office said in a press release.

The company bought and sold 28 tons of the anchovies between June 2022 and January 2024, earning KRW 74.6 million (USD 54,000, EUR 50,000). The executive said the switch to the bait-graded product was made due to shortages in the domestic supply of food-grade anchovies.

The company purchased 1,907 boxes of anchovies, of which 1,865 were sold to Jeju restaurants. The remaining 52 boxes have been ordered sold for animal feed. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said restaurants still in possession of the product in question should immediately return or discard them.

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