U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has introduced a new bipartisan version of his previous legislation to combat seafood fraud. The legislation responds to studies showing most recently that seafood is mislabeled 33% of the time in restaurants, supermarkets, and other retail locations across the United States. Markey amended earlier legislation he filed in July 2012 to reflect input from federal agencies, fishermen, consumer and conservation groups.
To prevent seafood fraud, Rep. Markey’s SAFE Seafood Act, formally the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, requires information that is already collected by U.S. fishermen— such as species name, catch location, and harvest method—to follow the fish and be made available to consumers. It also requires foreign exporters of seafood to the United States to provide equivalent documentation.
The bill also expands the ability of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to refuse entry of unsafe or fraudulent seafood shipments, and allows NOAA to levy civil penalties against violators under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
In addition to the fraud prevention measures, the SAFE Seafood Act addresses concerns over seafood safety raised by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a 2011 report. The report found that a lack of coordination between the FDA and NOAA is resulting in needless duplication of seafood safety inspections at a time when resources are only allowing for 2% of seafood imports to be examined for safety.
Rep. Markey was joined in the legislation by original co-sponsors Walter Jones (R-N.C.), John Tierney (D-Mass.), Bill Keating (D-Mass.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.), and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.). Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) will introduce companion legislation in the Senate.