Study: Seafood labeling lacks consistency

Consumers are willing to pay a premium price for fresh, quality seafood products. However, this willingness is based on consumer faith in the labeling claims made by producers, retailers and restaurants. Now, a recent study by Oceana, a major international ocean conservation organization, has shaken consumer confidence. 

Oceana performed a DNA-based survey of 143 shrimp products sold at 111 major outlets, including locations in New York City, Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, and several other outlets along the coast. The results of the test showed that approximately 30 percent of the shrimp products were inaccurately labeled.

Researchers discovered several instances of mass-produced, farm-raised shrimp labeled as premium-priced wild-caught Gulf shrimp. Wholesalers were also selling many shrimp products with no indication of their origin or harvesting methods, which may lead to retailers and restaurants making false claims to their quality later on.

Lauren Sucher, an FDA spokeswoman, explained to the Associated Press that mislabeling is illegal and pointed out that the agency inspects and enforces labeling laws, handing out warnings and fines. These fines can cause significant damage to an organization's operations, as well as long-lasting damage to its reputation and trade partnerships. 

Industry stakeholders have expressed concern about the results of the study, and their potential impact on shrimp sales and pricing. The Oceana study concluded with a plea to Congress to ramp up enforcement of seafood labeling, and to levy heavier penalties against those who purposefully mislabel seafood products for monetary gain. 

Organizations can be prepared for any changes in labeling regulations or practices by investing in their own color label printers. The Epson ColorWorks C3500 or Epson GP-C831 can help organizations realize the significant savings that come with the in-house production of color labels, as well as rapidly produce more accurate and appealing labels.  The Primera LX400, Primera LX900, Afinia L801, Afinia R635, Primera CX1000, Primera CX1200 also may assist producers that manage both small or large-scale printing runs. 

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