March 20, 2009 Washington, DC – A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today finds the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) work to combat fraud in the seafood industry lacking.
“The report calls for, among other things, collaboration between agencies on fraud but that type of effort depends first on regulators recognizing the importance of the issue and the potential impact of ignoring it,” said Better Seafood Bureau (BSB) Secretary Lisa Weddig. “There are folks inside the FDA who are committed to ferreting out this type of thing but simply aren’t given the resources to do the job.”
In 2007 responsible members of the seafood community decided they had seen enough fraud in the industry and launched the BSB, an independent organization designed to highlight companies playing by the rules and challenge those that are not.
“The seafood community does have a responsibility to address its own problems and we are pleased to see the GAO publicly recognize our efforts. But there’s an enforcement arm that lies within the FDA that needs to aggressively deal with these issues as well,” said Weddig.
In the last two months the FDA has refocused on some seafood scams, reissuing Guidance to Industry about just what constitutes fraud, hearing testimony on the issue before its Science Board and speaking out on seafood marketing it considers “misleading to the consumer.”
However, the GAO report says FDA’s own documents note that, “no resources have been allocated for seafood fraud-related work.”
“Folks who buy and sell seafood should hold themselves and those around them accountable for unethical and illegal schemes,” said Weddig. “But it’s often difficult to do that when the perception is that regulators themselves aren’t doing enough.”
The Better Seafood Bureau (BSB) was established by the National Fisheries Institute to provide a mechanism for industry’s partners in the supply chain – restaurants, retail operations, producers and processors - to report suppliers suspected of committing economic fraud.