Apr 10 2013

TECHNOLOGY HELPS FIGHT FRAUD—IT’S NO JOKE

Sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day, April 1st is widely known as a day for practical jokes. But did you know that in Italy, France, and Belgium, this day was traditionally celebrated as “April Fish Day?” Children and adults alike tacked paper fishes on one another’s backs and shouted “April Fish!”—in their respective languages, of course.

'April Fish' Day--on April 1 in Italy, France, & Belgium, people try to hang paper fish on each other's backs as a trick. Here's a picture of our favorite 'paper pollock' Wally. Read this comic strip featuring Wally, written and created by NOAA Teacher at Sea Catherine Fox.

So, with April Fish Day in mind, let’s take a closer look at how seafood fraud pulls some tricks of its own. But what is seafood fraud, you ask? To put it simply, anytime consumers or buyers purchase a seafood product that is not what they are paying for—is fraud.

The most common form of seafood fraud is short-weighting, which happens when processors overglaze, soak, and/or over bread seafood to manipulate or misrepresent its weight. Products might also be mislabeled to avoid higher import tariffs. However, the practice of “seafood substitution” is what has made recent news. Seafood substitution occurs when a species is mislabeled and substituted in whole or in part for a different species—disguising a low valued species as a more expensive one. The good news is that the seafood industry, academia, and federal and state governments are proactively developing solutions to protect consumers from fraud.  The Better Seafood Board Exit disclaimer, formed by members of the National Fisheries Institute in 2007, helps restaurants, retail operations, and manufacturers report suppliers who commit economic fraud. The board encourages seafood buyers who have unresolved issues with suppliers for selling short weight or otherwise mislabeled products to contact their hotline at 1-866-956-4272 to document these issues.

Sorting the survey catch

In our digital age, technology is helping fight fraud in more ways than one. Many companies are using QR codes—digital codes that redirect consumers to a website—where they can learn specific details about their seafood. One California sushi joint is even serving their fish labeled with a QR code printed on edible rice paper, which directs diners to sustainability information from yours truly—FishWatch.gov.

Read the full article here.

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