Veterinary residue is the most significant concern in seafood fraud, study finds

A recently published study on Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety found illegal or unauthorized veterinary residues, mostly originating from farmed seafood in Asia, to be the most significant issue of concern.  

The researchers analyzed seafood fraud incidents reported in a 10-year period, from 2010 to 2020. 934 records were collected from four databases, including the European Union's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, Decernis's Food Fraud Database, HorizonScan, and LexisNexis. The study provides a global comparison, examining food fraud trends across 80 countries and 72 seafood species. 11 types of fraud are analyzed throughout the seafood supply chain.  

Among the 11 types of fraud categorized, species adulteration is the most prevalent with 492 reports, which accounts for 52%. Among the species adulteration frauds reported, the presence of illegal or unauthorized veterinary residues is observed in 86% of these records, with most products originating from Vietnam, China, and India.  

The findings show that aquaculture farming is the most vulnerable supply chain node with 422 reports (45%), due to the large numbers of reports regarding illegal or unauthorized veterinary residues. There are 213 reports on import and export, with the most common offenses being fraudulent or missing health certificates (110 reports) and illegal or unauthorized imports (50 reports), including frauds such as attempted imports or smuggling of prohibited products. Equally important, the researchers point out that fraudulent export documents may imply violations further down the supply chain, which are only identified at border controls.  

Regarding the geographical aspect, the greatest concentration of fraudulent products reported is in Asia (556 reports), with the highest number of reports originating from Vietnam (194 reports), followed by China (155 reports) and India (93 reports). 97% of the records are reported through border checks, while the remaining 3% were originating from domestic controls, mostly in response to the use of authorized preservatives such as formaldehyde, formalin, and ammonia.  

The study highlights the need for a standardized and rigorous dataset through which food fraud can be scrutinized to ensure enforcement.