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Editor's Note: Time to consider restaurant COOL?

Property of SeaFood Business magazine
By Fiona Robinson, Editor in Chief
June 01, 2007

Seafood fraud touches everyone in the industry, from retailers to restaurants to processors to distributors. Industry veterans know this, and some, but not all, newcomers are quick to learn the various ways some companies make an extra buck. Product substitution, false weights, overglazing - it's all driven by competition. This issue's Top Story, "Tricks of the trade," by Assistant Editor James Wright discusses the latest attempts to bring seafood fraud under wraps, including the use of DNA testing and the National Fisheries Institute's Economic Integrity Program.

One topic mentioned in the article is country-of-origin labeling for seafood sold at foodservice outlets. At first I denounced COOL for restaurants as a logistical nightmare. Of the 935,000 restaurants in the United States, each one selling seafood would have to mark its menu with species origins. Every seafood company selling to the foodservice market would have to ensure its product is properly labeled. While it's become the norm for many upscale chefs to tout the origins of their seafood, the mom-and-pop restaurants and casual-dining chains typically do not. Policing a foodservice COOL program would 
invite chaos.

But something has to be done to stop the continuous black eye the entire industry sustains when one vendor or restaurant gets caught cheating. Maybe if country-of-origin labeling for seafood was extended to foodservice it would create a more level playing field and the deceptive urge would be reduced? I'm sure COOL at retail has not eliminated all fraud - it was never intended as an anti-fraud measure, only to differentiate domestic from imported seafood. Actions must be taken beyond "using only trusted vendors" - the typical advice given to seafood buyers, even from the government. If purchasing seafood by that motto hasn't curbed the problem by now, it never will.


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