FDA Makes Educational Push on Mislabeling of Seafood

October 27, 2014

By Ricardo Carvajal

FDA released an online learning module intended “to help the seafood industry, retailers, and state regulators ensure the proper labeling of seafood products offered for sale in the U.S. marketplace.”  The learning module consists of three videos that provide an overview of applicable regulations and guidance, explain the scope of the agency’s authority to address mislabeling arising from a variety of circumstances (including nonconformance with applicable standards and species substitution), highlight the potential health consequences of misidentification, and provide tips for inspectors, retailers, and consumers on detecting substitution.

On a separate web page, FDA provides results of its DNA testing of “fish that have a history of being misidentified.”  The agency sampled fish primarily at the wholesale level, and found incorrect identification of fish species 15% of the time.  Almost all mislabeling occurred in the snapper and grouper categories. 

It remains to be seen whether the educational push will be accompanied by more enforcement activity.  In August 2013, a seafood distributor was fined and sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to selling mislabeled fish.  That followed on the heels of a few warning letters to other distributors, but there appears to have been little activity since then.