WASHINGTON – Today, Oceana’s Vice President for U.S. Oceans, Jacqueline Savitz took to the stage at the TEDxMidAtlantic event at Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C. to address the problem of seafood fraud in the United States and what can be done to stop it, and to share Oceana’s message that saving our oceans can help feed the world. During her presentation, Savitz also announced a new letter signed by more than 450 chefs, restaurant owners and culinary leaders, representing nearly all 50 states, which calls on Congress to pass the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act.
The letter, which is signed by top chefs like José Andrés (Guest Curator at TEDxMidAtlantic 2013), Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Anthony Bourdain, Jacques Pepin, Eric Ripert, Barton Seaver, Michael Symon and Alice Waters, lays out the need for Congress to require traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S. This letter follows a similar one released exactly one year ago today that 500 chefs and restaurant owners signed to support traceability to help stop seafood fraud. This letter however, is the first one to specifically call for the passage of the SAFE Seafood Act.
In the letter, the chefs say they “are committed to serving seafood that protects our oceans, our wallets and our health,” and that “we should be able to tell our customers, without question, what they are eating as well as where, when and how it was caught.”
“Chefs and restaurant owners want to know the seafood they serve their customers is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled,” Savitz said. “By passing the SAFE Seafood Act, Congress can protect U.S. consumers and honest seafood sellers by making sure that customers get what they paid for.”
Despite growing concern about where our food comes from, seafood buyers are routinely given vague, misleading and even false information about the fish they purchase. In fact, Oceana recently found that one-third, or 33 percent, of the seafood samples it collected nationally were mislabeled according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines. In fact, for popular species like red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, less desirable, cheaper or more readily available fish were often substituted.
“Chefs know they can only make informed and sustainable choices if they are given honest information about the seafood they serve,” Savitz said. “Chefs and seafood consumers want to know more about the food on their dinner plates, and without boat to plate traceability, we will continue to be ripped off and in some cases, this jeopardizes people’s health. For instance when high mercury fish are substituted for low mercury fish, or when there is a seafood allergy involved.”
In March, the SAFE Seafood Act was introduced in Congress (H.R.1012/S.520), to help stop seafood fraud by requiring full chain traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S. The bill is championed by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) in the Senate and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) in the House of Representatives. Oceana urges Congress to pass this important legislation quickly.
Anyone in the culinary industry that would like to add their name to this letter should contact Amelia Vorpahl at [email protected].
To read the letter, and for a complete list of its signers, please visit: www.oceana.org/chefs-for-safe-act.
For more information about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.