Safeguarding Public Health and Interest with QR Codes for Seafood

You willingly and unquestioningly let go of your hard-earned money when you buy food. You don’t mind if you pay a little bit more because you know that quality costs more; this you naively assume base on what the package labels say. Not so fast consumers! These days, you need to double check the labels. There could be certain information there that you didn’t read the first time. You are not being remiss; it is just that “food fraud” has become more rampant these days.

Unfortunately, food fraud has extended to seafood. You can be buying tuna and paying for the price for said fish, but you can actually be getting escolar instead of tuna. Across America, about one-third of fish samples tested by Oceana, a nonprofit organization advocating ocean protection, were seen to be mislabeled.  “For instance, 87 percent of fish sold as snapper was actually some other type of fish, and the USP found that monkfish was sometimes actually puffer fish, which can also cause poisoning.”

Thus, it is but logical that consumers seek ways to protect their rights.

In Australia, the consumers are getting protected through unique QR codes introduced by OceanWatch Australia. Read about it in the news entitled “OceanWatch Australia Increases Traceability with QR Codes” by Aoife Boothroyd for Food Magazine – News Section. This effort is said to be an Australian fishing industry’s first. The distinctive QR codes for fresh seafood aims to provide wholesale buyers with a broad and accurate picture of what they are getting; the “where, how, and by who the catch was caught.”

QR codes on seafoodThe codes are part of the OceanWatch Master Fisherman Program and were launched on World Fisheries Day, Friday 21 November. By scanning the code, buyers are able to access information relating to the fisher behind the catch, how the seafood was caught, which part of Australia the seafood comes from, and information about the characteristics of the species, migration patterns and population statistics.

“These QR codes offer real transparency around the provenance of seafood. It’s important the community knows where their seafood comes from, and is confident the fisher is dedicated to responsible fishing and best-practice techniques to protect our marine environments,” said Brad Warren, executive chair OceanWatch Australia.

“The QR codes provide wholesale buyers with the tools to make informed purchasing decisions and ensure consumers, in turn, are eating a responsibly caught catch.”

There are certain requirements that fishers must meet to become accredited with OceanWatch and be allocated a QR code. First they need to complete the Master Fisherman Program that entails learning about fishing protocols and standards. This program is in complete alignment with the UN’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Applicant fishers must also go through and complete the trainings on food safety and maritime competency. Initial accreditation resulted to the allocation of sixty QR codes from NSW Estuary.

The QR codes were launched to the wholesale market last November 21, 2014, and same will be rolled out to the retailers soon after so that the benefits will readily cascade to the consumers.  All the consumers need to do is to scan the Oceanwatch QR code of the product they bought to know where and how the seafood was caught.

Warren guarantees the consumers that “These QR codes offer real transparency around the provenance of seafood.”

Who likes getting an escolar when you want a tuna sushi, or a poisonous an spiny puffer fish when you are paying for a monkfish? As a consumer, you would want to get what you pay for. You can start by reading all those labels. Don’t ignore the ones in small, less legible prints because those are usually the parts that say more, and which the fraudulent sources want ignored. If you find something anomalous or you get sick for consuming the food, report the case immediately to the Department of Health.


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