Business services organisation Lloyd’s Register has called on processors and fisheries to join a certification scheme after a Virginia-based seafood company intentionally mislabelled crabmeat. Casey’s Seafood imported 183t of crabmeat and repackaged it as US-raised blue crab, amounting to a wholesale value of $4.3m (£3.51m).
Polly Burns, fisheries manager for customised assurance at Lloyd’s Register, argued this type of “illegal and misleading activity” placed consumers at risk. She claimed the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC’s) blue label offered assurances that the seafood was “what the label says it is”.
“With membership of a traceability scheme not a requirement in the fisheries industry, there are seafood businesses that will continue to exploit consumers by engaging in acts of food fraud,” Burns said. “To confront this, schemes such as the MSC’s blue label offer assurances that a fishery has achieved the MSC Fisheries Standard and have met the Chain of Custody Standard for traceability.”
The MSC label can be found on 30,000 seafood products in almost 100 countries. Burns said retailers and food outlets were increasingly looking to buy and stock sustainable seafood products.
“There is a growing requirement for MSC certification in providing access to markets around the world,” Burns said.
“Producers looking to sell their product to sustainability-minded retailers and other end-users such as restaurants, are already beginning to find they have to have MSC-labelling for the fishery and the subsequent chain of custody documentation through the supply chain. Without the blue label, producers may begin to face a struggle to continue supplying both existing and new customers.”
A recent study by conservation group Oceana found that 21% of sampled fish was not what it was called on the label or menu. Burns believed this figure could be “driven down”, but it required producers to “put fair dealing above profits and sign up to a certification scheme such as MSC”.
“Fortunately, awareness among consumers is growing and many are now actively looking for the MSC blue label,” she added. “The time when fisheries could expect to get away with food fraud for over five years is nearing an end.”