According to data by Oceana, a campaign group, approximately 20% of seafood test samples in retail and catering sectors are mislabeled. Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, has echoed these claims, reporting that of all food sectors, seafood is the most vulnerable to global counterfeit. This is largely due to the fact that organized crime syndicates, such the Italian mafia, have become involved in food production, which gives them room to launder money while receiving large profits. The global illegal fish industry, for example, has an estimated value of $20–$25 billion each year, and because the industry does not uniformly follow safety and welfare standards, consumers are vulnerable to food poisoning and food fraud.
In the fish supply chain, organized crime syndicates are engaged in multiple stages from trawlig to processing to distribution, due to their control over restaurants and markets. Europol’s latest operation on untested and fraudulent food led to the dissolution of 50 organized crime groups and 750 arrests. According to the agency, factors such as traceability, standardization and cooperation are essential to fighting food crime. Thanks to increased customer awareness of misleading labels, retailers have begun to vie for certification from reputable standards organizations; additionally, EU rules have been tightened to require labeling with the scientific names and origins of all fish products.
Further empowering law enforcement officials fighting food crime are scientists, who are needed to provide analyses in the field. Investments in DNA tests, which would enable scientists to essentially work as forensic investigators of food products, will also provide law agencies such as Europol the means to rapidly and more accurately target mislabeled and fraudulent products.
Source: Financial Times