ASPA Responds to Oceana Report
American Shrimp Processors Association Supports Efforts to Ensure Product Integrity and Quality
BILOXI, MISS. October 30, 2014 – Members of the American Shrimp Processors Association (ASPA), who account for the vast majority of domestic, U.S. production of warm-water shrimp from Gulf and South Atlantic waters, are concerned with the findings of the Oceana report released today regarding misrepresentation of shrimp in grocery stores and restaurants across the U.S.
Says David Veal, Ph.D., Executive Director of ASPA, “We are encouraged that the problem does not seem to be at the producer/processor level. But the report does provide clear evidence that we need to expand our education, awareness and marketing efforts at the institutional and retail level.”
“While we have not yet been able to evaluate the quality of the science in the report, on the face of it, we are appalled by the numbers,” says Veal. “It is in our best interest for all shrimp to be represented properly. We actively encourage consumers – whether they are individuals, chefs, restaurants or retail buyers – to question the origin of their shrimp.”
ASPA has initiated efforts to ensure integrity of product produced by its members and is actively moving toward more widespread implementation to ensure that products labeled as Wild American shrimp are indeed wild-caught, domestic product from the Gulf and South Atlantic,” says Veal. “We actively promote Gulf and South Atlantic shrimp that can be identified as such.” (americanshrimp.com)
In fact, members of ASPA provided the traceable shrimp for the “Every Shrimp Has a Tale” promotion on the Mississippi Gulf Coast last year, which is referenced in the Oceana report (pp. 37-38).
One of the Oceana report’s authors, Kimberly Warner, Ph.D., is quoted referencing that program in the Sun Herald (Gulfport, Miss.) article by Paul Hampton, published today, titled “About a third of shrimp misrepresented, watchdog group finds.”
“‘The campaign that happened right after we left (fall 2013, when the sampling was done), Every Shrimp has a Tale, was very successful in highlighting traceable shrimp, responsibly caught,’ said Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana. (That promotion that has since ended.) ‘I think a lot of businesses enjoyed the promotion and probably got a really good price for promoting something that was honestly a Gulf product.
She said the reason that Gulf label is so often misused is because the Gulf shrimp are so desirable.’”
While most packaged goods must indicate the country of origin, Veal points out that misrepresentation can occur at many levels and may not be related to a producer or processor.
Says Veal, “Once shrimp products from overseas or the U.S. are removed from their packages at a foodservice establishment or at a seafood counter, it is up to those establishments to represent the product appropriately. We would hope that in mostinstances it is employees not realizing the difference or the importance of the distinction. We are actively creating educational programs that will lead to better awareness.”
Currently, an estimated 90% of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. are imported, farm-raised shrimp. The premium shrimp harvested by ASPA members are only about 10% of the total. Says Veal, “More and more consumers seem to prefer domestic U.S. shrimp product. Most people who walk into a restaurant or grocery store to buy shrimp believe they are getting a domestic product. It is important not to buy on price and to buy from a trusted supplier.”
Jonathan McLendon, Vice President of ASPA and President of Wild American Shrimp, Inc., says both organizations monitor advertising and promotion of shrimp products all over the country because it is in the members’ best interest for product to be labeled appropriately to maintain the integrity and value of their premium product. “We have run into instances where a retailer was implying ‘Louisiana Style’ or ‘Gulf Style’ shrimp, when the product was actually an imported product. In a brochure produced by Oceana which accompanied their report, there is a retail label using the words ‘Gulf Shrimp, Previously Frozen, Farm Raised, Product of Thailand,’ all in reference to the same product,” says McLendon.
ASPA has for several years been implementing many of the recommendations now found in the Oceana report and looks forward to our members continuing to be a part of the movement for an even more widespread and robust effort to ensure better labeling and/or traceability of warm-water shrimp products, both domestic and foreign. ASPA has long endorsed Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) at all sales points along with more stringent safety inspections of imported products.
Says Veal, “It is possible that the problems outlined in the Oceana report will get worse as imported shrimp are flooding the U.S. market at the highest levels ever. This is due to foreign government-subsidized production and inadequate safety and inspection protocols in the U.S. which allow shrimp into our country that fail to meet the quality standards of other countries.”
Veal adds, “This report provides an opportunity for ASPA to better educate consumers and buyers. ASPA members strive to promote true Gulf and South Atlantic shrimp that are verifiable in origin, and we hope that reports like this serve as a catalyst for further change in the overall shrimp supply chain.”
About the American Shrimp Processors Association: The American Shrimp Processors Association (ASPA), based in Biloxi, Mississippi, was formed in 1964 to represent and promote the interests of the domestic, U.S. wild-caught, warm water shrimp processing industry along the Gulf and South Atlantic with members from Texas to North Carolina. We are the collective voice of the industry, and our focus is to promote the interests of shrimp processors, other segments of the U.S. domestic wild-caught warm water shrimp industry and the general public. More information is available at http://www.americanshrimp.com