30% of Shrimp are Mislabeled!

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From: “Dr. David Scarfe”
Date: 4 November 2014 3:07:19 AWST
Subject: AquaVetMed e-News: Oceana Study ~30% of Shrimp are Mislabeled

November 3, 2015
Mislabeled Shrimp at Restaurants, Grocers (see study Summary & Highlights below)

AP News – Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn’t taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn’t from the Gulf.

From New York to New Orleans to Oregon, consumers are being misled about the shrimp they’re buying, according to a survey by the advocacy group Oceana. Cheap, imported farm-raised shrimp is being sold as prized wild-caught Gulf shrimp while common, more plentiful shrimp is being sold as premium. And shrimp of all kinds is sold with no indication whatsoever about where it came from, the group said.

Shrimp caught in the open oceans is considered superior in taste, texture and healthiness compared with farm-raised shrimp that tend to be more rubbery and without the distinct salty taste of the sea. Imports of farm-raised shrimp have skyrocketed in recent years, coinciding with shrimp’s ascent as the nation’s most popular seafood.

Oceana said it found about 30 percent of 143 shrimp products bought from 111 vendors were not what the label said. Bad labeling was discovered on shrimp sold at national and regional supermarkets and smaller grocery stores alike. Restaurants, from national chains to high-dollar eateries, were also selling poorly labeled shrimp, the group said.

The survey looked at shrimp sold in Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; and various spots around the Gulf of Mexico as well as New York City, which it deemed the worst offender. But the group acknowledged that the survey was a small sample, but said it used a technique involving DNA to trace the shrimp’s roots. “It was a first good look at shrimp,” said Kimberly Warner, a marine scientist with Oceana. She went out and obtained many of the samples. The group did a similar survey last year for fish and made similar findings. In that report, Oceana said consumers routinely are misled into believing they’re buying tuna and red snapper when in reality they’re getting less expensive fish.

Oceana is urging Congress and regulators to enforce proper labeling … … .

See the source (http://tinyurl.com/mpfxslb) for the full AP story. From the Study Report (available at http://oceana.org/en):

Executive Summary
With shrimp, it is almost impossible to know what you are getting. Shrimp is the most commonly consumed seafood in the United States and the most highly traded seafood in the world. However, this high demand has led to many environmental and human rights abuses in the fishing, farming and processing of shrimp. Despite the popularity of shrimp, as well as the associated sustainability, human rights and environmental concerns, U.S. consumers are routinely given little information about the shrimp they purchase, making it nearly impossible to find and follow sound sustainability recommendations.

Oceana’s previous studies have shown that species substitution, a form of seafood fraud, is common in the U.S. Last year, Oceana found that one-third of the more than 1,200 fish samples it tested nationwide were mislabeled, according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines. We have now turned our attention to shrimp, American’s most popular seafood, to investigate mislabeling as well as the information that consumers are given about the products they purchase.

Consumers may wish to choose their shrimp more carefully for many important social and ecological reasons. For instance, consumers may wish to avoid shrimp caught in fisheries that are not responsibly managed, that have high rates of waste or discards, or that are associated with human rights abuses. At the same time, consumers may wish to avoid farmed shrimp due to health and environmental impacts. Similarly, consumers may want to actively choose shrimp caught from nearby wild populations in the U.S., rather than shrimp caught overseas, or they may wish to purchase shrimp that are farmed using stat-of-the-art techniques that minimize pollution and provide ecological benefits.

Most labels and menus do not provide consumers with enough information to make such choices. There is very little information provided, and in many cases, the information given about shrimp misrepresents the actual identity of the product. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to make informed choices.

Oceana surveyed shrimp in grocery stores and restaurants to see what information consumers typically receive and compared it to what they actually got. Oceana’s investigation included surveying how shrimp were labeled on menus and in grocery stores and collecting samples for genetic species identification. Oceana’s study covered shrimp producing states in the Gulf of Mexico as well as Portland, OR, Washington, D.C. and New York City in 2013.

Overall, 30 percent of the 143 shrimp products tested from 111 vendors visited nationwide were misrepresented, while 35 percent of those 111 vendors sold misrepresented shrimp. Of the 70 restaurants visited, 31 percent sold misrepresented products, while 41 percent of the 41 grocery stores and markets visited sold misrepresented products.
• The most common species substitution was farmed whiteleg shrimp sold as “wild” shrimp and “Gulf” shrimp.
• Forty percent of the 20 shrimp species or categories collected and identified were not previously known to be sold in the U.S.
• No samples that were labeled as “farmed” were mislabeled, while over half of the samples labeled simply “shrimp” were actually wild species.
• A banded coral “shrimp,” which is an aquarium pet not intended to be consumed as food, was found commingled with another unidentifiable shrimp in a bag of frozen wild salad-sized shrimp.
• New York City had the highest amount of misrepresented shrimp at 43%.
• Products from Washington, D.C. and the Gulf of Mexico region were misrepresented about one third of the time.
• In Portland, only 5% of products were misrepresented, the lowest rate among regions investigated.
• Overall, 30% of the shrimp products surveyed in grocery stores lacked information on country of origin, 29% lacked farmed/wild information and one in five did not provide either.
• The majority of restaurant menus surveyed did not provide the diner with any information on the type of shrimp, whether it was farmed/wild or its origin.

Misrepresenting shrimp not only leaves consumers in the dark, but it also hurts honest fishermen who are trying to sell their products into the market. Instituting full-chain traceability and providing more information at the point of sale will benefit all stakeholders in the supply chain, from fishermen and seafood businesses to consumers. Traceability can also prevent illegally caught seafood from entering the marketplace and deter human rights violations around the world, while giving consumers the information they need to make fully informed, responsible seafood choices.
AquaVetMed e-News provides information to veterinary and veterinary-allied subscribers concerning aquatic animal medicine, health, welfare, public health and seafood safety, obtained from a variety of sources (largely AquaVetMed subscribers). While provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s, Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee and are for public distribution, they do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AVMA or the veterinary profession. See the AVMA Terms of Use (http://tinyurl.com/29h2rf) for further information.

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