Problems With “Seafood” Authenticity
Food labeling is an important area where animal advocates have fought for progress for many years. Whether it is simply having vegan-certified food or ensuring that animal products are clearly marked as such in ingredient lists, labeling can be a major factor in our food choices. Likewise, mislabeling of food is a serious matter with ethical implications. Some instances have received widespread attention, such as the case with the “horse meat scandal” in Europe in recent years.
Some species of animals and the related consumer products can be easily identified in whole or partial form. But in the case of many animal products, including fish and “seafood,” genetic studies of grocery store products have shown “high levels of substitution and mislabelling.” It’s also unclear what actual methods are used to test products in private and public laboratories across the European Union.
This study’s surveyed private and public labs that conduct “seafood authenticity testing” across Europe. Their goal was to understand how products are analyzed, with the hope of taking a step towards establishing an efficient, standardized, transnational procedure for monitoring authenticity. What they found is a patchwork approach that “varies significantly” from lab to lab, showing a “substantial lack of standardization.” This haphazard approach to analysis has big implications for regulatory practices. Of course, it also has implications for consumers.
For animal advocates, the authors note that previous attempts to standardize analysis of food products has had positive results in the past. This could bode well for seafood products as well. On an advocacy level, however, the study shows that current seafood labeling has major gaps that may extend to other animal products and industries as well. Food labeling is very important to consumers, and highlighting the problems inherent in the system may help change consumers’ minds about those products.