FDA Bans Importers Guilty of Seafood Mislabeling
Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued debarments precluding Karen Blyth and David Phelps from importing food into the United States for the next 20 years. Ms. Blyth had been sentenced to 33 months of imprisonment and Mr. Phelps received 24 months last year after being convicted for 13 felony offenses for their roles in purchasing and selling farm-raised Asian catfish and Lake Victoria perch falsely labeled as grouper, selling foreign farm-raised shrimp falsely labeled as U.S. wild caught shrimp, selling shrimp they falsely claimed to be larger, more expensive shrimp than they actually were, and for buying fish they knew had been illegally imported into the United States.
Ms. Blyth, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., was the co-owner and president of two companies, Consolidated Seafood Enterprises Inc., located in Phoenix, and Reel Fish and Seafood, Inc., located in Pensacola, Fla., which traded in a variety of seafood products. Mr. Phelps, of Scottsdale, Ariz., co-owned Consolidated Seafood and Reel Fish and served as a vice president in both companies.
The FDA took action under a provision of the Federal Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act that permits the agency to debar an individual from importing food if that individual has been convicted of a felony for conduct relating to the importation into the United States of any food. The FDA’s action serves as another reminder of the serious consequences for those that engage in seafood fraud. In addition to criminal penalties and civil financial liability for duties owed, seafood importers who commit fraud can be banned from the business of seafood importing for considerable lengths of time.
Department of Justice Press Release
Phelps Debarment Order
Blythe Debarment Order