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New law would tackle widespread seafood fraud

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When is a tuna not a tuna? Consumers will know more if Rep. Ed Markey’s Safe Seafood Act is passed into law.

Measure would accountability to the seafood supply chain

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Not long after a recent report by the nonprofit group Oceana revealed widespread fraud in the seafood consumer market, federal lawmakers make intervene to hold seafood producers more accountable for what they catch, deliver and sell.

As introduced by Congressman Ed Markey, the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act would requiring full traceability of all seafood sold in the U.S., from boat to plate.

“Fish fraud is a national problem that needs a national solution. This bill finally tells the seafood swindlers and fish fraudsters that we will protect America’s fishermen and consumers from Massachusetts to Alaska,” said Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. “From tackle to table, this bill makes the entire seafood supply chain more transparent and trustworthy.”

The Oceana report showed that fraud happens at every stage of the seafood chain of supply – from mislabeling fish and falsifying documents, to adding too much ice to packaging. The study found that one-third, or 33 percent, of the 1,215 fish samples collected from 674 retail outlets in 21 states were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

“Seafood fraud is a national problem that requires federal attention. Rep. Markey should be applauded for his swift action to stop seafood fraud in the U.S. Seafood fraud not only cheats consumers, but it also hurts honest fishermen and seafood businesses along the supply chain,” Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell said in a statement. “Oceana is calling on Congress to pass the SAFE Seafood Act to ensure that the seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled,” Lowell said.

“Americans deserve to know more about the seafood they purchase, including the species name, where, when, and how it was caught, if it was farmed or previously frozen, and if any additives were used during processing. By requiring fish to be tracked from boat to plate, the SAFE Seafood Act will protect our wallets, our health and our oceans,” she concluded.

The bill also expands the ability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to refuse entry of unsafe or fraudulent seafood shipments, and allows NOAA to levy civil penalties against violators under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

In addition to the fraud prevention measures, THE SAFE Seafood ACT addresses concerns over seafood safety raised by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a 2011 report by requiring cooperation and progress reporting. The report found that a lack of coordination between FDA and NOAA is resulting in needless duplication of seafood safety inspections at a time when resources are only allowing for 2 percent of seafood imports to be examined for safety.

Rep. Markey was joined in the legislation by original co-sponsors Walter Jones (R-NC), John Tierney (D-MA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Jo Bonner (R-AL).

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) is expected to introduce a companion bill in the Senate in the coming days.

To access Oceana’s national seafood study, please visit www.oceana.org/fraudnationwide.

 

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