Update: NFI backs FDA's 'roughy' claim


Steven Hedlund

Published on
March 3, 2009

The National Fisheries Institute today backed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's determination that "white roughy" is an unacceptable market name for basa and other fish in the Pangasiidae family.
Lisa Weddig, NFI's director of regulatory and technical affairs and secretary of the Better Seafood Bureau (BSB) in McLean, Va., said that white roughy is not merely part of the local vernacular but rather a concerted attempt to pass off less expensive fish as roughies, such as orange roughy, and other fish in the Trachichthyidae family.
"There is a difference between genuine confusion and marketing designed to confuse," said Weddig. "We want to educate people who may have a legitimate misunderstanding about what to call a certain fish and weed out those who are perpetrating fraud."
Weddig sent a letter to the FDA in late January asking for clarification. The FDA responded last week that marketing basa or other fish in the Pangasiidae family as white roughy is misleading to the consumer.
The FDA is seemingly stepping up its efforts to crack down on seafood fraud. The agency's white roughy determination comes more than a month after it updated its list of acceptable market names for seafood and more than a week after it reminded the seafood industry that short weighting is a felony.
Weddig asked the FDA Science Board last week to make economic integrity a greater priority and urged the agency to stamp out species substitution, short weighting and other forms of seafood fraud.
"Enforcement needs to focus on all violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act - even those that don't pose a public health risk," Weddig testified, adding that the agency overlooks its role in preventing fraud. "We have no doubt that those companies willing to cheat in one area such as economic fraud will also be willing to cheat or take short cuts on food-safety controls. And we get evidence of these bad actors on an almost daily basis."

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