In the wake of Oceana’s U.S. shrimp-mislabeling study, in which the group found up to 30 percent of samples inaccurately labeled, members of the American Shrimp Processors Association (ASPA) are calling for further measures to ensure product integrity and quality.
“We are encouraged that the problem does not seem to be at the producer/processor level. But the report does provide clear evidence that we need to expand our education, awareness and marketing efforts at the institutional and retail level,” said David Veal, Ph.D., executive director of ASPA.
ASPA members represent the majority of domestic production of warm-water shrimp from the Gulf and South Atlantic waters.
“While we have not yet been able to evaluate the quality of the science in the report, on the face of it, we are appalled by the numbers,” added Veal. “It is in our best interest for all shrimp to be represented properly. We actively encourage consumers — whether they are individuals, chefs, restaurants or retail buyers — to question the origin of their shrimp.”
ASPA has initiated efforts to ensure integrity of product produced by its members and is actively moving toward more widespread implementation to ensure that products labeled as Wild American shrimp are indeed wild-caught, domestic product from the Gulf and South Atlantic. While most packaged goods must indicate the country of origin, Veal points out that misrepresentation can occur at many levels and may not be related to a producer or processor.
“Once shrimp products from overseas or the U.S. are removed from their packages at a foodservice establishment or at a seafood counter, it is up to those establishments to represent the product appropriately,” said Veal. “We would hope that in most instances it is employees not realizing the difference or the importance of the distinction. We are actively creating educational programs that will lead to better awareness.”
Currently, an estimated 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. are imported, farmed shrimp. Jonathan McLendon, VP of ASPA and president of Wild American Shrimp Inc., says both organizations monitor advertising and promotion of shrimp products all over the country because it is in the members’ best interest for product to be labeled appropriately to maintain the integrity and value of their premium product.
“We have run into instances where a retailer was implying ‘Louisiana Style’ or ‘Gulf Style’ shrimp, when the product was actually an imported product. In a brochure produced by Oceana which accompanied their report, there is a retail label using the words ‘Gulf Shrimp, Previously Frozen, Farm Raised, Product of Thailand,’ all in reference to the same product,” said McLendon.