Seafood Fraud – A Bitter Reality Of Fine Dining
This may come as a shock to the seafood-lovers that their favorite food is fraught with fraudulent practices. Seafood fraud is the bitter reality of fine dining today and it is a shame that not many people are aware of it. It may start with the red snapper on your dinner plate to the bloated scallops you pick up from a stall. An ocean-protection organization, Oceana, has released a report, which claims that 25% to 70% times, seafood served at hotels and restaurants is mislabeled. Note this fact that the US imports 84% of its seafood out of which only 2% is inspected, and quite a negligible quantity (0.001%) is specifically tested for fraud. Scary, isn’t it?
1) Oceana Report
Oceana researchers acted like CSI investigators and conducted DNA tests on more than 1,000 fish fillet samples to come up with the result that at an average of 50% of the time, vendors deliberately mislabeled fish species to pass off cheaper and more accessible varieties of fish instead of the high-end varieties such as wild salmon or Atlantic cod. The report The report states that this fraud doesn’t only affect your health but also your wallet as well as the conservation efforts for marine life because you are being fed what you did not pay for and what may actually harm you seriously.
2) Risks of Seafood Fraud
The biggest risk of seafood fraud is allergens. When a yellowtail is mislabeled as a mahi mahi or a swordfish is mislabeled to become a mako shark, it means a lot more than just the taste of the fish has changed. As per the Oceana report:
“Allergens may be the most life-threatening risk of seafood fraud. Fish and shellfish are among the most common food allergies in the U.S., along with peanuts and tree nuts (HHS 2011). Failure to declare potential allergens involving shellfish, shrimp, and other species is considered an emerging problem for public health (Mafra et al. 2008). The World Health Organization has identified crustaceans, including lobster, crabs, and shrimp, as key allergens that must be identified on packaged foods based on how common severe allergic reactions can be.”
3) Why Seafood Fraud?
The basic reason behind seafood fraud at such a large scale is its economic benefits. Producers indulge in fraudulent activities because it pays. Moreover, since majority of seafood consumed in the US is imported, it doesn’t mean any economic incentive for the producers to stop this practice.
4) Different Faces of Seafood Fraud
Yes, it is not only the fish among seafood, which is subjected to this fraud. The plump scallops, which you pick up at the seafood store may actually be bloated with help from a sodium-based compound. The fish fillets are loaded with layers of crushed ice to glaze it into “looking” fresh. While replacing a prized species of fish with a cheaper one, though similar in taste, is the most common fraud practice. However that is not all. The producers also overglaze or soak the seafood to make it look fresher and plumper so that it attracts the customers.
5) The Good News
This doesn’t mean that seafood is a complete no, no for you from now on. There are means through which this seafood fraud can be avoided and that is DNA testing. With the help of modern technology, the US Government can spee dup its operations against fraudulent fish operations. Stephen Vilnit, commercial fisheries outreach and marketing at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, explains, “Seafood fraud can happen at many steps in the supply chain. (However) There are no longer any excuses for seafood fraud. We’ve got the technology to trace our seafood – and that’s good for everyone from the fisherman to the consumer.” In addition, at the International Boston Seafood Show, held recently, a senior US seafood quality officer informed the audience that the Government was making “serious” efforts to stop all types of seafood fraud.
A while ago, there were serious doubts about whether or not to eat Gulf seafood. It seems the problem has come home for America. While the Government agencies are at present preoccupied with issues such as bio-terrorism, it won’t be far in the future when the officials will also have to do something substantial about the seafood fraud, unless the Government wants to put the lives of its people deliberately in danger! What do you think? Do fell free to share your concerns.