US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Warning on the Economic Fraud in the Seafood Community.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed new emphasis on economic fraud in the seafood community following increasing number of "short weight" fraud cases by seafood producer and importers in the US. For a number of years, seafood producers in both the U.S. and overseas have offered "net weight" products for sales or export. This practice offers for sale products that are in fact "short weight" in which it contain less fish than is declared on the package. This practice is illegal under U.S. food and consumer protection law. The National Fisheries Institute (NFI), the U.S' major seafood trade group sponsored the development of the Better Seafood Board (BSB) to help combat this growing problem. NFI's members remain concerned that they face unfair competition from producers who sell short weight product. NFI's members through the BSB have committed to selling only products properly labeled for weight, species, country of origin, and other labeling requirements. NFI has also highlighted this situation with various groups within the U.S. government.
In February 2009, FDA issued a letter to the industry restating a policy that clarified that processors who include glaze as part of the weight of frozen seafood were committing fraud under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. On October 2009, the FDA took action against an Illinois company for adulterating frozen shrimp product by increasing the weight with added glaze and "marinade" glaze. The firm was also found to be mislabeling species, also a violation of the law. The new FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg has indicated that she expects to increase the level of enforcement on issues of economic fraud like short weight. NFI and the BSB support the steps FDA is taking to ensure all seafood providers compete fairly. The NFI has urged the respective authorities in Malaysia to ensure that companies understand the rules for exporting to the U.S. and avoid offering or selling products at "net weight." Practices like selling short weight products will damage the reputation of Malaysia's seafood exporters and may risk future trade flows into the United States.
Starting 2010, the FDA is expected to carry out more enforcement actions against US companies and their exporter partners. The consequences of violating U.S. food safety and consumer protection laws will definitely results in negative impact on Malaysian seafood industry. Therefore, it's imperative that Malaysian seafood exporters do not violate any FDA regulations especially on the net weight and HACCP regulations as highlighted above. Any violation to these regulations will seriously jeopardize Malaysia's future seafood exports into US.
Report by : Agricultural Counselor's Office Washington DC, USA.