Members of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) are at the forefront of fighting fraud in the seafood industry. As a prerequisite for membership in our trade association, companies must also be members of the Better Seafood Board (BSB), the only industry-led fraud fighting body. We are pleased to see Dr. Oz focusing on this issue in an attempt to educate consumers.
When it comes to fish fraud and salmon in particular it is important to recognize, from an enforcement perspective, that there is a distinction between species substitution and menu mislabeling. The Oceana report does not explain this and in turn provides little actionable intelligence for those of us on the front line of trying to solve this challenge. If a restaurant or retailer is sold a piece of fish that it believes is “wild salmon” and labels it as such but it turns out to be farmed, the business is the victim of species substitution. If a restaurant or retailer buys a piece of farmed salmon and knowingly labels it “wild salmon” that is menu mislabeling and the business is the perpetrator, not the victim. For groups that are actually interested in stamping out fish fraud this distinction is an essential part of any investigation.
Whether it’s species substitution or menu mislabeling it is fraud and our members are working to combat it. From menu audits by the BSB, for members of the National Restaurant Association, to a 1-800 business-to-business fraud line, NFI’s seafood community seeks to prevent and confront fish fraud. NFI and the BSB support tougher enforcement of myriad fraud laws already on the books. New York’s Attorney General has launched a series of investigations and now enforcement efforts that not only recognize the distinction between species substitution and menu mislabeling but seek to hold perpetrators to account.
Simply calling attention to fish fraud is no longer enough. Efforts must to made to push for greater enforcement. Not new laws but greater enforcement of existing ones. In the meantime consumers should feel free to ask restaurants and retailers if they source their fish from members of the Better Seafood Board. The answer should always be, yes.