Investigation exposes short-weight seafood
Consumers may be paying up to USD 23 (EUR 17) per pound for ice when purchasing frozen seafood products, according to an investigation conducted by 17 state agencies in January and February.
During the four-week investigation, more than 21,000 packages of short-weight seafood were removed from the point of sale, Judy Cardin, weights and measures chief for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said in a statement released on Monday. Cardin, who organized the investigation, said inspectors occasionally found ice comprising up to 40 percent of the product weight.
Though it’s legal and commonplace for seafood processors to coat product with an ice glazing, state and federal laws prohibit including the weight of the ice in the labeled weight of seafood.
“Unfortunately a few unscrupulous companies are looking for ways to increase profits by defrauding consumers with deceptive practices, making it impossible for honest businesses to compete,” said Lisa Weddig, the National Fisheries Institute’s director of regulatory and technical affairs and secretary of the Better Seafood Board. “Consumers, retailers and restaurants shouldn’t have to pay seafood prices for ice.”
Randy Jennings, Chairman of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, urged consumers to contact their state weights-and-measures authority if they suspect seafood fraud.
In February, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection tested 52 seafood products and found that half including the weight of the ice in the labeled weight. In all, the state pulled 847 packages of short-weight seafood from store shelves.
In addition to Connecticut and Wisconsin, the other states participating in the investigation were Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington.
Last March, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report called out federal agencies for not doing enough to prevent economic fraud in the seafood trade.