HARTFORD, Conn. — The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection last week said that half of the packaged, frozen seafood products it had recently purchased from state supermarkets were short-weighted.
“We tested 52 different seafood products and exactly half of them failed, in that the packages contained less actual product in weight than was labeled,” agency Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr. said in a release. “Excess ice made up the difference, which on average was 4.5% per package.”
Inspectors removed all packages of the 26 SKUs that failed their test, and as a result, 847 total seafood packages were taken off sale.
“On average, a customer buying one of these short-weight packages would pay 50 cents on just ice, so the economic impact of just the 847 packages we removed was more than $425,” Farrell said. “These short-weights are grossly unfair to the consumer, and quickly add up.”
Short-weighting has long been a problem among suppliers of both fresh and frozen seafood. In 2007, the National Fisheries Institute launched its Economic Integrity Initiative to address several fraud problems, including short-weighting, species substitution and illegal product transshipment.
In a May 2007 news story, John Connelly, president of NFI, told SN that he had received emails forwarded by concerned suppliers, with offers to pack shipments at 90% net weight, 80% net weight or even as low as 65% net weight, and fill the rest of a container with ice or other filler to make it harder for customs agents, and later buyers, to notice.
With fresh seafood, ice and filler used to short-weight a shipment during transport can simply turn into unexplained shrink for a department. On frozen seafood, ice glazing is the problem, and Connecticut is among 19 states that have stepped up inspections of this type since a 2009 federal report warned of the problem of short-weighting in frozen foods sold at retail.
“The Department of Consumer Protection is notifying the failed companies with our concerns,” Farrell said, adding that the department may impose penalties.