Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Green Thinking: Seafood Fraud

Have you heard of seafood fraud? It's actually more common than you might think. Although many products can be directly traced back to their origins due to labeling and bar codes, it's a lot harder to track seafood. Although 84% of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is imported, only 2% is inspected.

Fish and other seafood options are widely promoted as healthy proteins, and good sources of omega-3s. However, seafood may be mislabeled anywhere between 25-70% of the time for fish like red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod - disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper and more readily available. This means that sometimes, you might be paying for a different fish than what you're eating.

Seafood does offer health benefits, but it can also be a high-risk food when not safely handled or sourced. Some species might have higher levels of toxins or contaminants than others. And while it's possible to recall certain products, it's impossible for seafood because the origin of fish is often unknown.

That’s why Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, launched a new campaign last month to stop seafood fraud. As part of its efforts, Oceana also released a new report entitled Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health that received widespread media coverage, including stories by The New York Times, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, ABC and CBS.

Just two weeks ago, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the Commercial Seafood Consumer Protection Act (S. 50), which if enacted into law would help stop seafood fraud. If this issue is important to you, contact your senators and legislators, and encourage them to support this act.

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