A Fine Kettle of Fish

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Fresh Salmon SteakSeafood is a frequent target for fraud because there are so many varieties and because the distinctions between species can be elusive for many consumers. It takes an expert eye and palate to say with any certainty exactly what kind of fish is on the end of the fork. Most people trust the menu and the server. But when high-profile incidents of seafood fraud shake their confidence, they turn to other, “safer” choices. Knowing how to respond to these concerns can help sustain customers’ faith in your fish.

Species substitution is the most well-known and widely publicized type of fish fraud. Vietnamese pangasius/swai and tilapia are sometimes sold as more expensive grouper, flounder or snapper, for example. Whenever we have reason to suspect substitution (routinely in some cases), Sysco uses DNA testing to authenticate species and confirm accurate labeling for the seafood we distribute to our valued customers.

Inaccurate weights are actually the most common type of seafood fraud, far more prevalent than counterfeit fish. Soaking can make certain types of seafood — such as scallops, shrimp, and fish fillets — appear much larger than their actual size. And an extra glaze of ice can inflate the true weight of frozen seafood. The added water weight means you get less than the weight you paid for — sometimes a lot less.

If the price on a catch of high-value fish seems too good to be true, it probably is. And ignorance is far from bliss when it comes to food fraud — everyone in the supply chain shares responsibility for perpetuating the fraud if any reasonable suspicion exists.

Because food fraud does not usually pose an actual health risk to consumers, the FDA and other regulatory agencies have only limited resources to devote to the problem. The best defense against seafood fraud is the reputation of a known and trusted vendor, with long-established supplier relationships and rigorous quality assurance programs.

Consumers have confidence in a reliable product at a reasonable price from a reputable vendor — that’s the Sysco advantage.