Target: Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration
Goal: Push for accurate labeling of shrimp, so consumers can identify sustainable options
Throughout the U.S., shrimp is currently the seafood of choice. In reality, consumers have a variety of choices when it comes to shrimp, from imported to farmed to wild-caught. Yet, according to a recent study by the environmental advocacy group Oceana, not all customers are buying what they think they are. Following a study of mislabeling in finfish released by the group in February of 2013, in which one third of fish sold at retailers bore an incorrect label, the study found that approximately thirty-five percent of shrimp sold in the U.S. had been given inaccurate labels, either by species or by type. The implications for food safety and environmental sustainability are serious, and call for focused efforts to correct these errors in a timely manner.
Curiously, following the study’s results, mislabeling of shrimp went as far as identifying unknown species in addition to ones not known to be appropriate for consumption. More than just a marketing strategy, the U.S. “wild-caught” label has implications for environmental sustainability, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Shrimp bearing the “wild-caught” label should indicate that the shrimp comes from companies that follow rigorous standards for fishing that aim to reduce the accidental trapping of turtles, marine mammals, and other threatened species. By contrast, although shrimp farmed in aquaculture have helped meet rising demand, foreign farmed shrimp in particular have been linked to concerns about habitat destruction, overfishing of other marine species as feed, and overuse of chemical treatments.
Mislabeling of shrimp ultimately prevents consumers from making an informed choice based on their personal preferences – price, taste, or sustainability. By signing the petition below, you can urge the federal government to implement greater testing of shrimp products, so that we as consumers can understand the full price of what we pay.
Dear Commissioner Hamburg,
I am writing in regard to the recent study of by the environmental advocacy group Oceana of the mislabeling of America’s favorite seafood: shrimp. Finding that thirty-five percent of shrimp were incorrectly labelled, by both species and type, the study also identified previously unknown species, even ones not commonly consumed as food. I urge you to use this study as an opportunity both to further our knowledge of the natural world and to enable consumers to make informed choices about what they buy, serve, or eat.
Fortunately, Secretary of State John Kerry has made sustainable seafood a priority, having expressed in a recent statement the federal government’s commitment to making seafood both environmentally responsible and traceable for consumers, who will be able to know the true origins of their seafood.
I encourage you to be the driving force behind this effort. By instituting more rigorous testing of shrimp, your agency can take a leading role in effecting greater transparency in seafood sale and consumption in the U.S. You can make this goal of sustainable and traceable seafood possible.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Albert Cahalan via Wikimedia Commons