In the wake of a five-year-long bait-and-switch scheme in which a Virginia-based seafood company intentionally mislabelled crabmeat, Lloyd’s Register is calling for the seafood industry to do more to confront rogue behaviour.

Casey’s Seafood imported 183 tons of crabmeat and repackaged it as US-raised blue crab, amounting to a wholesale value of $4.3 million. Polly Burns, fisheries manager, Customised Assurance at Lloyd’s Register, argues that this type of illegal and misleading activity places consumers at risk, and is urging law-abiding fisheries to join a certification scheme.

With membership of a traceability scheme not a requirement in the fisheries industry there are seafood businesses who will continue to exploit consumers by engaging in acts of food fraud. To confront this challenge, schemes such as the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) blue label offer assurances that a fishery has achieved the MSC Fisheries Standard and have met the Chain of Custody Standard for traceability.

Polly explained: “The Chain of Custody Standard ensures the blue MSC label is only displayed on seafood products that can be traced back to an MSC certified sustainable fishery. This means that consumers can feel confident that the product that they are buying – from crab to cod – is what the label says it is.”

The blue label is becoming increasingly important in the commercial world. Indeed, the MSC label can be found on over 30,000 seafood products in almost 100 countries. Retailers and food outlets such as Walmart, Tesco and McDonald’s are increasingly looking to buy and stock sustainable seafood products.

Polly said: “There is a growing requirement for MSC certification in providing access to markets around the world. Producers looking to sell their product to sustainability-minded retailers and other end-users such as restaurants, are already beginning to find that they have to have MSC-labelling for the fishery and the subsequent chain of custody documentation through the supply-chain. Without the blue label producers may find that they begin to face a struggle to continue supplying to both existing and new customers.

“Seafood fraud happens far too regularly to be dismissed. A recent study by conservation group, Oceana, found that 21% of sampled fish was not what it was called on the label or menu. This number can be driven down, but it will require producers to put fair dealing above profits and sign-up to a certification scheme such as MSC.”

Polly added: “The fraud committed by Casey’s Food put consumer safety at risk and undermined the work of honest and transparent fisheries in the USA and around the world. When consumers make a choice to buy a product, it is only fair for them to expect that the produce is what it says it is.

“Fortunately, awareness among consumers is growing and many are now actively looking for the MSC blue label. The time when fisheries could expect to get away with food fraud for over five years is nearing an end. It’s time for the good guys and girls of the industry to commit to certification and transparency,” Polly concluded.