A new study by the University of North Carolina quantifying the extent of shrimp mislabeling in coastal and inland North Carolina shows 33 percent of the shrimp marked as harvested from the state’s waters likely was farm raised in a foreign country.
The study highlights a practice where companies falsely label foreign seafood as local to sell at higher prices, double the amount in some cases.
“Seafood mislabeling occurs in a wide range of seafood products worldwide, resulting in public distrust, economic fraud, and health risks for consumers,” the study said.
The study used standard DNA barcoding procedures to determine the species identity of 106 shrimp sold by 60 vendors across North Carolina as “local” shrimp.
Thirty-four percent of the purchased shrimp was mislabeled, and surprisingly the percentage did not differ significantly between coastal and inland counties.
Roughly one third of product incorrectly marketed as “local” was in fact whiteleg shrimp: an imported, and very likely farmed, species from the eastern Pacific, and not found in North Carolina waters.
In addition to the negative ecosystem consequences of shrimp farming (e.g., the loss of mangroves forests and the coastal buffering they provide) and seafood importation, North Carolina fishers—as with local fishers elsewhere—are negatively impacted when vendors label farmed, frozen, and imported shrimp as local, fresh, and wild-caught.