Don't lump the U.S. seafood industry in with businesses that are sick and tired of big government. This is one sector that wants more regulation, and the sooner the better.
The problem is seafood sold at less than the weight listed on the package, which an industry gathering earlier this year described as "premeditated, organized and intentional" fraud.
Industry groups want regulators to be more aggressive in helping curb the abuse, which has some seafood selling at 10 to 35 percent less than its labeled weight. Though it's difficult to say just how widespread shortweighting is, the industry fears the losses are substantial for honest vendors and for consumers, given that nearly $23 billion in seafood was sold in the U.S. last year.
"We want to shine a light on this so we can get rid of it," said Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, the country's largest seafood trade group, whose members include chain restaurants, wholesalers and fishermen.
The U.S. consumes 5 billion pounds of seafood a year, 80 percent of it imported and most of it frozen. That makes the industry and consumers particularly vulnerable because a package that says, for example, 10 pounds of shrimp is supposed to contain 10 pounds of shrimp -- plus any ice. But without a careful thawing, draining and weighing, it's nearly impossible to tell whether excess ice could be cheating the buyer.
On top of that, the Food and Drug Administration inspects only 2 percent of seafood and focuses on food safety more than possible underweighting.
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