Fishy Business: Seafood Fraud in New York State

  • As previously reported [...], the seafood industry has continued to deal with the issue of seafood fraud, which includes the substitution of cheaper species for more expensive ones. In December 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a final rule establishing a “Seafood Import Monitoring Program,” which included permitting, reporting and recordkeeping procedures related to the importation of certain fish and fish products.  Compliance for most species was effective on January 1, 2018, and shrimp and abalone compliance will be mandatory by December 31, 2018.
  • Despite the new federal reporting and recordkeeping requirements, New York Attorney General released a report on December 14, 2018 revealing “rampant mislabeling” of fish in New York state.  From late 2017 through 2018, the New York State Office of the Attorney General investigated seafood fraud at retain supermarkets in the state. The results revealed that more than one in four seafood purchases were mislabeled. Specifically, consumers who bought lemon sole, red snapper and grouper were more likely to receive an entirely different fish. Substitutes were typically cheaper, less desirable species than the chosen species.  Ultimately, the report concludes, “solving the seafood fraud problems requires industry-wide reforms, at all stages of the supply chain” and offers best practices to industry.
  • We suspect that class actions will follow the New York Attorney General’s report and we will continue to monitor the important issue of food fraud and its impact on the food industry.