Seafood fraud is a major problem in Canada. An Oceana Canada investigation this year found that 46 per cent of seafood products tested were labelled incorrect. Consumers and government agencies are both recognized this issue, and the industry must move quickly to recoup its reputation and secure itself against losses.
The need for boat-to-plate traceability
A 2019 report by Oceana Canada spurred the government to address seafood fraud once the scale of it was made public. The report found that incorrect labelling was rampant across the country and called for a major overhaul to seafood traceability systems (or lack thereof).
In December 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau published a mandate to the Canadian Minister of Health called the “boat-to-plate traceability mandate commitment.” To date, federal agencies working under the mandate published various initiatives and goals for food labelling, transparency, and traceability; however, it is concerning that there is still no timeline to implement the proposed changes.
Implementation will indeed be complex because Seafood in Canada is regulated under three different bodies:
- the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
- Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO); and,
- the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).
With conflicting information and a massive bureaucratic challenge ahead, seafood industry leaders cannot wait for regulations to implement boat-to-plate traceability.
Since the realization of incorrect labelling, there has been increased inspections, sample collections, and more testing. Although these increased procedures are helpful, they do not address the problem at its root.
A path forward
Instead of waiting for the government to act, the Canadian seafood industry should bridge the gap by embracing operational excellence and addressing a number of industry best practices.
Food in Canada reported “the seafood industry needs to better manage the accuracy of species information on labels, which requires comprehensive data collection across the entire supply chain. Without complete and accurate data, which is one of the key problems flagged by watchdog groups and advocates, CFIA must rely on vague labelling practices in their reporting and analysis. Standardizing data and terms would help to close the gap on different information sets and help government and private entities work off the same base data.”
While there are incredible pressures to cut costs, fix supply chain constraints, and grapple with the ongoing impact of the pandemic, companies need to build out their operations to ensure accurate labelling, complete traceability, reliable data on their seafood. These improvements will go a long way toward restoring consumer trust, help identify bad actors, and catch seafood fraud early in the manufacturing process.
To help reduce fraud, automated technologies for tracking and tracing should be implemented as soon as possible. Automated traceability can provide a more rigorous and robust solution.
Each establishment can automate its own traceability information to improve their response time and accuracy when responding to specific queries on-demand and at a lot level. It also provides the added benefit of reducing the regulatory burden on establishments with respect to complying with traceability requirements.
Canada’s seafood fraud problem is solvable
The trust in the entire Canadian seafood supply chain—from fishing to restaurants—has been eroded.
The Canadian seafood industry is still a massive part of the economy. The latest data from the Canadian government values the industry at $7.44 billion which is why we need to solve the problem of fraud now. Although, Seafood fraud isn’t just a Canadian problem, but operational excellence can make Canadian fishers, packers, processors, and distributors leaders in the race to combat widespread seafood fraud.
This article was originally sourced by www.foodincanada.com.