SeaChoice gives Canada “F” for international seafood labeling
SeaChoice calls for stronger seafood labeling regulations to prevent seafood fraud in Canada.
Coding & Labeling
Canadian Centre for Biodiversity Genomics
David Suzuki Foundation
Ecology Action Centre
Living Oceans Society
seafood labeling in Canada
seafood labeling in EU
seafood labeling in US
HALIFAX AND VANCOUVER— Canada’s seafood labeling requirements fail consumers, particularly when compared to requirements governing two of its largest export partners, the European Union (EU) and the United States, according to a SeaChoice international seafood labeling report card released on March 16, 2017.
“We found that Canada had the lowest standard of labeling among the three jurisdictions,” says Colleen Turlo, SeaChoice representative with the Ecology Action Centre. “Even the basics, such as the species’ scientific name and where and how it was caught, are not required on seafood labels in Canada, leaving consumers eating in the dark.”
Launched in 2006, SeaChoice was created to help Canadian businesses and shoppers take an active role in supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture at all levels of the seafood supply chain. The SeaChoice program is operated by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, and Living Oceans Society.
SeaChoice says inadequate seafood labeling masks serious issues associated with health, environmental sustainability, quality assurances, human rights violations and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing—saying it can be associated with seafood fraud, where seafood is advertised as something it is not.
According to the release from SeaChoice, genetic testing conducted in Canada, the E.U. and the U.S. has exposed intentional and unintentional seafood fraud. While fraud has led other jurisdictions to implement stronger seafood labeling and/or traceability requirements, Canada lags behind on both fronts. Canadians may be mistaking their seafood for something it’s not and unknowingly contributing to marine degradation or modern slavery.
“We know Canadians want better seafood labeling. It’s about the basic right to know what we are eating,” says Bill Wareham, SeaChoice representative with the David Suzuki Foundation. “More than 12,500 citizens signed a petition calling for the Canadian government to implement improved, mandatory seafood labeling requirements.”
While some seafood sellers and retailers are voluntarily labeling seafood more comprehensively, the lack of uniform regulatory requirements implies that only some consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions. Standardized requirements would improve consumer confidence and hold businesses accountable.
“Given the importance of the seafood industry to Canada, and to coastal provinces in particular, we fail to understand why our country would not demand transparency in its seafood supply chain,” says Kelly Roebuck, SeaChoice representative with the Living Oceans Society. “With new regulations in the U.S. and changes coming through E.U. trade agreements, Canada would be wise to change its regulations now to avoid missing out on trade opportunities.”
In light of Canada’s failing grade, SeaChoice recommends two steps the federal government can take to create comprehensive seafood labelling regulations.
Step 1: Amend Canada’s food labeling policy to include the following information on seafood products:
- Species’ scientific name
- Production method (farmed or wild);
- Geographic origin (region of catch or area of production);
- Harvest method (gear type or farming method).
Step 2: Canadian food labeling policies should incorporate an onus on supply chain businesses to provide the necessary product information from source to customer to improve seafood traceability.
To further investigate seafood fraud, SeaChoice and the Canadian Centre for Biodiversity Genomics are recruiting citizen science volunteers to conduct seafood genetic testing across Canada to assess the level of seafood fraud and mislabeling in its markets. The full report can be downloaded at www.labelmyseafood.com.
More information on SeaChoice at www.seachoice.org.