Earlier this week, my colleague Kyle Brown asked the question “Isolated Issue or Global Supply Chain Problem?” This question was addressing the recent uncovering that many of the products we believe to be 100% beef, actually contain a fair amount of horse meat. It would seem that this question has been answered relatively quickly with a new Oceana report released yesterday. Oceana is an advocacy group for the world’s oceans that has sampled over 600 outlets in 20 states over a two year period in one of the most comprehensive food and health studies done in recent years.
What Oceana found is staggering. Out of a laundry list of statistics, some that stand out include 74 percent of sushi restaurants, 38 percent of other restaurants, and 18 percent of the grocery stores surveyed sold seafood that was not correctly labeled. Wow. Many of the places surveyed actually sold less expensive, farmed fish, as opposed to wild-caught fish that were depicted on numerous labels. The question is no longer 'is there a global supply chain problem?', it has become where is the global supply chain problem?
This question is not easy to answer. With such a globally integrated supply chain there are many places the mix-up may occur. Also, it can differ on a case by case basis. Veteran chef, Bob Kinkead, suggested that suppliers may prey on uninformed chef’s, selling them a product that is not what it seems in order to reap more profits themselves. In contrast, Darren Lee Norris, a co-owner of a sushi restaurant believes it is the chef who buys a cheaper product and then sells it as something that it is not. There is a good chance that in this wide spread problem both of these scenarios are taking place.
So what can be done? A group of about 500 chefs called on congress to pass a federal traceability law pertaining to seafood and as a result, a bill was introduced in the previous congress. A new one is expected to be introduced for the current congress to consider. What would probably be the most beneficial is if the FDA enforced the laws already on its books. With so many other responsibilities and a lack of funding, testing for seafood fraud has taken a backseat. Less than 1 percent of all the seafood in the United States is tested for fraud. Where the problem exists in the supply chain is hard to gauge but there is a global supply chain problem, and it must be fixed.