H-E-B has stepped up sourcing standards and transparency for fresh, frozen, prepared and shelf-stable seafood.
The San Antonio-based grocer said its updated policy augments efforts to source certified wild-caught and farmed seafood; expand traceability systems for all seafood products; prevent human rights abuses in seafood supply chains and support workers’ rights; and foster environmental and ethical integrity in its canned tuna supply.
H-E-B worked with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an international conservation group, to bolster its seafood sustainability program. The supermarket chain said it has partnered with EDF since 2012 to aid its efforts to source seafood from socially and environmentally responsible fisheries and farms.
“The health and management of individual fisheries and farms are considered in all or our sourcing decisions. We continue to work with suppliers and fisheries that demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, animal welfare and food safety,” Jason Driskill, director of seafood at H-E-B, said in a statement. “We owe it to our customers to provide a fully traceable and transparent seafood supply they can trust.”
H-E-B said policy updates include the revision of its sourcing grid to include information about the method of catch. Designed to make it easier for customers to find information about seafood in H-E-B supermarkets, the grid also lists production methods, sustainability certifications and country of origin. The retailer noted that it plans to update the grid at least twice annually.
Traceability efforts already in place are aimed at keeping illegal, unreported or unregulated seafood from out of stores, according to H-E-B. The grocer said suppliers not meeting sustainability requirements have their products removed from its inventory, and business with those companies is terminated.
H-E-B noted that its fresh and frozen seafood comes from certified fisheries and farms worldwide that comply with high sustainability standards. That includes sources rated green (best) or yellow (OK) on EDF’s Seafood Selector or are certified sustainable by organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council and the Global Aquaculture Alliance, which promote fishery and farm improvements, set catch limits, promote scientific research and reduce accidental capture of species.
Farmed seafood receives third-party certification to verify a range of standards, including water and feed quality, H-E-B reported. The retailer said it also conducts independent inspections for farmed product from Asia to ensure the seafood comes from certified producers.
Through the Trace My Catch tool, H-E-B also enables customers to trace all brands of its private-label tuna back to the vessel and capture location. The company said all H-E-B-brand tuna is third-party certified, sourced from fisheries that use approved fishing gear to minimize accidental capture of species like dolphins, sharks, rays and turtles. In addition, all canned tuna sold at H-E-B stores comes from suppliers that work with conservation organizations encouraging responsible fishing practices.
Among labor guidelines for suppliers across all departments, including seafood, H-E-B has adopted a zero-tolerance policy to help abolish child labor and human trafficking and ensure all work is voluntary and that workers are guaranteed rights such as fair wages, safe working conditions, and equal and fair treatment.
As a large seafood purchaser, H-E-B said it will regularly update and enhance its policies to promote sustainability in the category.
“With this new policy, H-E-B reaffirms its commitment to remaining at the forefront of sustainable and responsible seafood sourcing,” stated Tim Fitzgerald, director of impact for EDF’s Oceans program. “We have been with them every step of the way and are excited to continue working with them on these complex and dynamic issues.”
H-E-B added that it will continue to embrace local sourcing of seafood. The company said it’s the largest retail buyer of Gulf seafood in Texas and was the first major retailer to offer fresh, responsibly harvested seafood under the Gulf Wild brand, a partnership that began in 2012.