Fishing for Fraud
The FDA goes after short-weighted, water-logged, misbranded seafood
by Peter Quinter, guest columnist
In 2010, Americans consumed almost six billion pounds of seafood. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that the nation’s food supply, including seafood, is safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. That is a tough task considering 80% of the seafood we eat is imported from countries all over the world. Unfortunately, the reality is that seafood fraud is common. Moreover, it can have not only economic, but food safety consequences.
According to a February 2009 GAO Report to Congress which criticized the FDA for its lack of enforcement, the most common types of seafood fraud are:
1. shipping products through an intermediary country to avoid customs duties (transshipping),
2. adding excess amounts of water or ice to the seafood to increase its weight (over-treating),
3. substituting a different species of seafood for the species listed on the label (species substitution), and
4. including less seafood in a package than indicated by the label (short-weighting).
Read this typical January 20, 2011 Press Release from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding a company that pled guilty to false labeling of imported fish. Read this typical Warning Letter from the FDA against a seafood company for misbranding its shrimp.
The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January 2011, is a step in the right direction to give the FDA the legal authority to prevent, not just respond to, seafood fraud. As FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg stated in a recent press release:
“This law represents a sea change for food safety in America, bringing a new focus on prevention, and I expect that in the coming years it will have a dramatic and positive effect on the safety of the food supply.”
Please call or email me with any questions or comments.
Copyright © 2011, Becker & Poliakoff
About Peter Quinter
10 May 2012: Peter Quinter is now a Shareholder in the law firm of GrayRobinson and Chair of the firm’s Customs & International Trade Law Group. Based in the firm’s Miami and Ft. Lauderdale offices, Quinter principally represents persons and companies involved in international trade and transport. Editor of the GrayRobinson Customs and International Law Blog, Quinter is widely recognized for his expertise in international and trade law.
You can contact Peter Quinter at [email protected] or at (954) 270-1864.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views or Descartes Datamyne. In addition, this article is for general information purposes only and it’s not intended to provide legal advice or opinions of any kind and my not be used for professional or commercial purposes. No one should act, or refrain from acting, based solely on this article without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.
Date posted: March 18, 2011