Your dinner has arrived, a nice piece of fish, delicately cooked, served perhaps over a bed of rice.
Was it wild salmon you ordered? Would you be surprised and disappointed to learn that you got coho instead?
As the nonprofit organization Oceana has put it: “Recent studies have found that seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 percent to 70 percent of the time for fish like red snapper, wild salmon, and Atlantic cod, disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available.”
Seafood fraud has been documented in recent years by newspapers, Consumer Reports and others.
And now two senators want the Obama administration to do something about it. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., wrote last week to President Obama urging action on seafood fraud.
“This fraud is ripping off consumers,” they wrote, “posing health risks by disguising species that may be harmful for sensitive groups, and harming our oceans by making it easier for illegally caught product to make its way into the U.S. market.”
A big part of the problem, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report, involves a lack of coordination and communication by three agencies most responsible for seafood inspections: the Food and Drug Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Customs and Border Protection.
Upward of 90 percent of all seafood consumed domestically is imported, the senators noted, but the FDA inspects less than 2 percent of those products.
Markey and Wicker say they will work toward solutions in Congress, but expressed hope that Obama’s agencies would do a better job of working together on the fraud. They should get on it.
Fish consumers deserve accurate descriptions of what’s on their plates.