Tarpon Springs, FL—Federal government investigations confirm that millions of dollars of falsely labeled shrimp are imported into the United States every year, an illegal activity that allows unprincipled companies to avoid U.S. food safety and trade laws. The Southern Shrimp Alliance and Devi Sea Foods Limited (Devi), an Indian exporter of shrimp, jointly developed a coding system that will prevent the false designation of shrimp imports as a product of Devi.
Devi is now the only Indian shrimp exporter exempt from antidumping duties. Past exemptions on shrimp imports from other countries appear to have resulted in large quantities of shrimp being falsely labeled in abuse of the exemption. The new coding program went into effect March 1, 2011.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has estimated that one false labeling scheme involving transshipment of Chinese shrimp through Indonesia resulted in the evasion of over $60 million in duties owed to the U.S. Treasury and that another mislabeling scheme resulted in the evasion of an additional $132 million in duties. The Southern Shrimp Alliance estimates that another $56 million in duties have been evaded annually since 2005 due to illegal transshipment of Chinese shrimp through Malaysia.
“The U.S. government has taken important steps to try and reign in rampant fraud in the seafood industry, but it cannot solve a problem this large alone,” stated John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “Private industry actions are necessary to rid us of this plague.”
In addition to defrauding the U.S. government, false labels and descriptions of shrimp products endanger the health of consumers while selling low-value products at falsely inflated prices. Separate NOAA Law Enforcement and CBP investigations have found that falsely labeled imported seafood was contaminated with harmful antibiotics and other substances. Further, recent convictions arising from federal investigations found foreign farm-raised shrimp was falsely labeled as premium U.S. wild-caught shrimp.
“Fraud in the shrimp market harms the U.S. government and the domestic shrimp industry, but the real victim is the American consumer,” stated Williams. “Widespread fraud undermines consumer confidence in all seafood and ending it should be a high priority for everyone in the seafood industry.”
The Southern Shrimp Alliance has undertaken a three-pronged approach to addressing fraud. First, the organization is working closely with federal government agencies to identify fraudulent activity. Second, the Southern Shrimp Alliance works in partnership with other domestic industries adversely impacted by fraudulent labeling schemes to address broad patterns of circumvention. Third, the Alliance endeavors to work with foreign exporters and U.S. importers negatively impacted by fraud.
The Southern Shrimp Alliance represents the U.S. warmwater wild shrimp fishery from eight states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Southern Shrimp Alliance: Deborah Long, spokesperson,(804) 360-0074
Devi Sea Foods Limited: Liz Levinson, counsel, (202) 828-2400