FDA Issues New Requirements for Seafood Traceability
Oceana Welcomes New Safeguards and Continues to Call for Traceability of All Seafood
Press Release Date: November 16, 2022
Location: Washington, D.C.
This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule requiring traceability of high-risk foods, including most seafood. The rule requires businesses to track most seafood from the point of landing through the supply chain to the final point of sale.
“Oceana commends the Food and Drug Administration for releasing this long-awaited rule requiring traceability for high-risk foods, including most seafood. The path seafood travels from the fishing boat to our dinner plate can be complex and opaque. By having key information follow the fish through the supply chain, there is less an opportunity for a bait and switch, that can cheat consumers and impact their health,” said Marla Valentine, Oceana’s illegal fishing and transparency campaign director. “The FDA rule paired with the Seafood Import Monitoring Program means that some seafood in the U.S. will now be traced from the fishing boat to the dinner plate. We encourage the Biden administration to expand both programs so that all seafood sold in the United States is safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled.”
Seafood fraud, specifically species substitution, occurs regularly, cheating consumers and putting public health and the oceans in jeopardy. A global review of seafood fraud studies around the world found 1 in 5 of more than 25,000 sample of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled.
The U.S. currently imports up to 85% of its seafood, according to NOAA Fisheries. That seafood often follows a complex path from boat to plate, creating multiple opportunities for seafood fraud that can occur at each step in the supply chain. Seafood fraud cheats consumers, and can expose them to potential health risks.
Seafood fraud complicates consumers’ ability to differentiate what is safe and what is potentially dangerous. With over 2,000 different species of seafood from all over the world now available for sale in the U.S., it is unrealistic to expect the American consumer to be able to independently and accurately determine what fish is really being served. Seafood in general is extremely sensitive to proper handling and refrigeration, and in some cases can cause severe illness if not handled correctly. Despite these risks, consumers are often given inadequate, confusing, or misleading information about the seafood they purchase because of weak regulations. Each year in the United States, around 260,000 people get sick from contaminated fish alone and fish are the most common food category implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks.
In January 2021, Oceana released the results of a nationwide poll finding that Americans overwhelmingly support policies to end illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Included among the key findings, 89% of voters agree that imported seafood should be held to the same standards as U.S. caught seafood. Additionally, 81% of voters say they support policies that prevent seafood from being sold in the U.S. that was caught using human trafficking and slave labor. Eighty-three percent of voters agree that all seafood should be traceable from the fishing boat to the dinner plate, and 77% support requirements for all fishing vessels to be publicly trackable. The findings show widespread bipartisan support for policies aimed at increasing transparency and seafood traceability.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to expand seafood traceability and transparency at sea, visit usa.oceana.org/StopIllegalFishing.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 225 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit USA.Oceana.org to learn more.