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Editor's Note: Fraud makes all seafood companies look bad
By Fiona Robinson
June 01, 2005
Last month I urged seafood buyers to make sure they get what they are paying for. This month I’m urging suppliers to sell what they say they’re selling. I may be stating the obvious, but that’s not always the way business is done in the seafood industry.
This issue’s Top Story, “Swindling on the rise,” by Associate Editor Steven Hedlund, looks at the practice of seafood substitution and why some industry folks think it’s on the rise. The general “fraud” topic had to be narrowed down, because there are several types of scams when it comes to seafood, including short-weighting products and selling chemically treated or frozen product as fresh. Having to pick and choose from a variety of fraudulent practices is a rude awakening to the amount of deception that actually occurs in this industry.
Substituting or shorting product, whether to a retail or restaurant buyer or another wholesaler, doesn’t say good things about your operation. If you make a few thousand dollars extra on a shipment, how much business are you potentially losing if the vendor discovers the discrepancy?
I hear about these problems continuously from people who have been duped. Each time one company cheats another, the refrain “The seafood industry is a bunch of crooks” becomes more of a reality.
No other protein category has an image problem like seafood. How often do the headlines read “Farmed beef substituted for wild,” or “Authorities crack down on chicken smugglers”?
As Steve mentions in the Top Story, there are many fish species for buyers to choose from. But several species look and taste a lot alike, which adds to the confusion and sets the stage for dishonest suppliers who want to make a fast buck from someone else’s ignorance.
If you’re a supplier who has cheated another company in the past, consider this: Most seafood consumers don’t differentiate between companies, because the fresh seafood they see in the display case isn’t branded. If they hear something bad about one seafood company, the whole industry can get a bad rap. Think about that the next time you are tempted to make a quick buck at someone else’s expense. In the long run, fraudulent behavior isn’t profitable for you or anyone else in the business.