April 08, 2010
State Ensures Consumers Are Paying for Seafood, Not Ice
Survey Finds 11% of Seafood Packers in Violation for Inclusion of Ice in Labeled Weight
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced the results of a special statewide survey of seafood retailers that checked compliance with labeled weights. The survey, done in conjunction with a national investigation, found 11 percent of the surveyed seafood packers wrongfully including the weight of ice in the labeled weight for the seafood.
Seafood packers often apply a coating of ice glaze to frozen seafood prior to packaging to preserve the quality during storage and distribution. This practice is acceptable, but state and federal laws prohibit including the weight of the ice in the labeled weight of seafood. The state survey, conducted by the Department’s Division of Weights and Measures, found 185 packages out of the 1,615 inspected throughout the state in violation of state and federal law. All violations found in New York were from products packaged and labeled by out-of-state seafood packers.
“Ice is an important precaution taken in the retail sales of fish to ensure the quality and safety of the product,” the Commissioner said. “The issue with ice is that some packers are including the weight of the ice in the product’s labeled weight, thus charging consumers the same price for ice as the seafood, which could easily be over $10 a pound. While we did not find rampant violations at retail establishments, consumers should know that stores must either weigh the product without ice or include a tare weight for the ice that is used in packing.”
The state survey was conducted in January and February of this year, in conjunction with a national investigation, which a total of 17 states participated. In those 17 states, over 14,000 retail packages of seafood were tested. Comparisons between the states are difficult to make since packages were tested at both retail and wholesale. The worst violation in New York was a package including 30 percent ice, resulting in an additional $2.65 being charged to the consumer. At the national level, one state found ice comprising over 40 percent of the product weight and priced $6.09 over the actual value of the seafood. The states combined reported removing over 20,000 packages off-sale, which includes some larger wholesale lots.
Randy Jennings, Chairman of the National Conference on Weights and Measures said the seafood investigation is an example of government agencies working together effectively. "The weights and measures inspector is perhaps the least known element of daily commerce in the United States, but serves to protect buyers and sellers in every transaction. Inspectors are highly trained professionals ensuring accuracy of scales, gas pumps, taxi meters, package weights, price scanners, fuel quality, and much more.”
Weights & Measures in New York is a partnership between local agencies and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Local inspectors do the bulk of the retail inspections of store scales, gas pumps, fuel oil meters, and packaged goods. This includes over 200,000 packages weighed each year to assure accurate net weights. If consumers suspect fraud, they can contact the Department or their local weights and measures authority.
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