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Fishy business: Economically motivated adulteration of fish in Minnesota retails markets

Award No.: 
Principal Investigator: 
Nicholas Phelps
PI Organization: 
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Start Date: 
July, 2014
End Date: 
June, 2015
Economically motivated adulteration (EMA) or food fraud involving seafood (often called "fish fraud") is of significant and widespread concern. Numerous reports have indicated the rate of fraud, specifically for species substitution, in the United States ranges between 25-50% of products sold in retail markets. Fish fraud results in a loss of transparency in the supply chain, demonstrates vulnerabilities that could be exploited to cause intentional and catastrophic harm to public health, results in economic manipulation in the marketplace, and poses a major public health threat, often through consumption of prohibited chemicals, antibiotics, and toxic substances. It is critical to the defense of our food system to improve the understanding of EMA of fish products in the retail market to inform evidence-based regulatory policymaking, as well as protect consumer health. To that end, this proposal offers a comprehensive assessment of not only the prevalence of fish fraud in Minnesota, but also adds to our understanding of the supply chain and evaluates stakeholder opinions. This will be achieved by 1) Documenting the supply chain for high-value and frequently mislabeled fish species at retail outlets in Minnesota; 2) Determining the prevalence of mislabeling of these fish species in the Minnesota retail market; and 3) Performing a qualitative assessment of regulatory, retail, and consumer knowledge and opinions of fish fraud in Minnesota retail markets and identifying the greatest opportunities for fraud in the supply chain. The immediate and long-term impacts of this project will be wide reaching and involve stakeholders at all levels of regulatory management and the supply chain. The data collected will provide regulatory agencies with justification for evidence-based policy and management strategies and inform risk assessment. In addition, determining the current prevalence of fraud in the retail market and better understanding stakeholder expectations will contribute to efforts to develop education and outreach initiatives, as well as third-party product certification.
Analytic Methods Utilized: