Sat, 02-Jul-2022
Wednesday 12 Aug 2020 , 12:25 pm

Without Traceability Throughout Seafood Supply Chains, it is Simply not Possible to Ensure that a Product Being Sold is Not Fraudulent: Sayara Thurston of Oceana Canada

In an exclusive interview with Smart Industry News, Oceana Canada’s Seafood Fraud Campaigner, Sayara Thurston talks about the impact of plastic pollution on the seafood, supply chain, future trends, and frauds included in the industry.
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As sea animals unknowingly consume plastic, how much of eating this seafood has affected human health?

While it is still unclear exactly how seriously ingesting plastic is impacting human health, it’s estimated that humans consume about a credit card’s worth of plastic every week. Not only is plastic in our seafood, it has also been found in tap water, salt, beer, honey and even in the air we breathe. We know that plastic materials and their additives can contain thousands of different chemicals, and that microplastics in the environment can also act as magnets for harmful pollutants. While the effects of plastic on human health is currently a topic of extensive research, it’s safe to assume that ingesting that much plastic isn’t a good thing.

Sayara Thurston of Oceana Canada
Sayara Thurston of Oceana Canada

According to you, which initiatives government must implement to tackle this crisis on an urgent basis?

Oceana Canada is working to achieve a strong national ban on harmful and unnecessary single-use plastics, like those used in the fast-food and beverage sector, because this is a critical step for reducing marine plastic pollution. Forty-seven per cent of the plastic waste generated in Canada comes from plastic packaging and single-use plastics – more than any other category of plastic waste – so if we stop single-use at the source, we could see our plastic production cut dramatically. This is the beginning of a global trend away from plastics. Canadians can sign the petition at to tell the government that this is critical that it fulfil its commitment to a national ban on single-use plastics.

How does implementation of boat-to-plate traceability help fishers?

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a widespread and serious global problem with serious consequences for honest fishers, ocean ecosystems and even human health. As more countries around the world develop national traceability programs to keep IUU products out of their supply chains, markets without robust traceability in place, like Canada, become vulnerable to an influx of cheaper, lower quality (and even illegally fished) products. These products can undercut Canadian fishers and distort prices. Stringent traceability requirements would help keep these products out of Canada and create a fairer, more level playing field for our local fishers.

What must be done to prevent seafood fraud?

Seafood is the most highly traded food commodity in the world, and we know that fraud and mislabelling run rampant in this industry. The solution is boat-to-plate traceability: a system that requires important information about seafood, including exactly what type of fish it is, along with how, where, and when it was caught, be shared at every step along the supply chain, all the way to the consumer. Seafood supply chains are notoriously long and complex, with products often travelling between multiple countries that do not necessarily require adequate information about a product’s origin, or even proof that it was caught legally. Without traceability throughout seafood supply chains, it is simply not possible to ensure that a product being sold is not fraudulent. Traceability systems already exist and operate successfully in some of the largest seafood markets in the world, notably the European Union. Requiring boat-to-plate traceability, along with robust monitoring and enforcement, is a feasible and effective method for preventing seafood fraud.

After the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, people are hesitating to eat non-vegetarian food. According to you what needs to be done in future to protect our health and livelihood from similar threats?

Seafood mislabelling and species substitution is a well-documented problem that can pose risks to public health by unknowingly exposing consumers to allergens, toxins or environmental contaminants. Even more concerning, if a foodborne illness does occur in a product without robust traceability, containing the problem is much more challenging. When romaine lettuce sold throughout North America was contaminated with E. coli, a lack of traceability meant that this problem could not be immediately identified at the source, leading to a wider recall, and more risk and uncertainty for consumers. Full chain traceability is the best way to mitigate this risk – it minimizes fraud, allows for all products to be traced directly back to their source, and provides public health officials with the data they need to understand risks and avoid problems in the future.

When few countries like India are banning the use of one-time use plastic, many are still neglecting the effects of plastic use on environment. According to your prediction, how will it impact the seafood industry by 2030?

It can be hard to predict just how the ill effects of plastic pollution will impact the seafood industry, but what we can say with certainty is that marine life is being negatively affected by plastic. Microplastics can already be found in the seafood we eat, like fish, mussels and oysters, and some of these species are experiencing physiological stress, harmful health impacts and starvation as a result. With plastic production expected to increase fourfold by 2050, this problem is only going to get worse. Oceans and the species that call them home are already threatened by so many stressors, including warming and acidification, overfishing and habitat destruction – it is time for countries to take the threat of plastic pollution seriously and eliminate plastic pollution at the source.

Neha Mule

Neha writes articles on sectors including medicine, food, materials, and science & technology. A qualified statistician, she has the ability to observe and analyze the trends in global markets and write compelling articles that help CXOs in decision making. She is a bookworm and loves to read fiction, lifestyle, science and technology. Neha comes with 6 years of experience in content writing and editing that involves blog writing, preparation of study materials and OERs.

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