Stinking Up The Joint

Skalldyr

Image via Wikipedia

Finally Friday, and with it comes our weekly food-related theme.  This one won’t be as pleasant as some but hopefully it gets you thinking (and eating) a little better about seafood specifically and all food in general.

Oceana is an organization founded to protect the oceans.  They issued a report on seafood fraud recently which I found to be eye-opening although, unfortunately, unsurprising.  I want to highlight one point and see if you agree with me that it leads to a bigger business point.

You can read and download the report for yourself here.  It’s brief and far from boring, especially if, like me, you try to eat seafood a few times a week.  In fact, there are parts of it which are downright scary.  The main point of it is that in a global economy, a lot of seafood is mislabeled, not properly cared for, and fraudulently sold.  Besides all of the environmental impact of illegal fishing, there are a number of health risks too.  Putting those aside, there’s a more basic point here and that’s the one I want to discuss.

If you are a business person and you behave this way, you’re really dumb.  Oh sure – there are a few extra bucks in your pocket in the near term, but at a minimum you’re running the risk of being outed.  At a maximum, you can be facing criminal charges for everything from fraud to murder (and there are cases of purposefully improperly labeled foods killing people).  Like most things, however, combatting this type of behavior doesn’t come from the top down – it’s the marketplace – that would be you and me – that drive this.

If we ask more questions – whether about the source of our seafood or anything else – we combat bad behavior by business.  Conversely, I think any business which isn’t actively answering questions is raising a red flag since so many firms now actively participate in the conversation via social and other media.  In the report, you’ll read about the author trying to contact some of the seafood companies only to be met with impenetrable stone walls.  Not smart.

We should all be eating as locally as we can and the more we know about who produced our food, the better.  But food companies – and other businesses – should be proactive about this.  Whole Foods, for example, identifies the source of everything.  Obviously they can be defrauded as well, but it’s a start – another layer up in the demand chain asking questions.

Sorry to end the week on a scary note but I think the issues of honesty and transparency are pervasive and critical.  Just ask the folks around the Japanese nuclear plant.  What do you think?

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