The topic of seafood labeling has gained much attention in recent years as consumers become more savvy and involved with making food choices for their families. Given the extreme variety available for consumption in the world’s oceans, it is easy to imagine how the process of naming and labeling seafood for general use can quickly become confusing and complicated. As the FDA makes note, any given species of fish can have up to four different labels or names:
- Vernacular Labels are locally or regionally recognized names for a given species. Vernacular names for the same species can
- vary from one region to another.
- Common Names are the predominantly used name by ichthyologists and other fishery experts to describe a species.
- Scientific Names– also called Latin Names- are assigned to a given seafood species by taxonomists applying Carl Linnaeus’ binomial naming system. This system names each species according to its genus and species, which are determined by evolutionary relationships.
- Acceptable Market Names are assigned by the Food and Drug Administration for seafood that travels from one region to another, which is considered a form of interstate commerce. The FDA has undertaken the task of assigning official market names for seafood to ensure that seafood that is sold for public consumption is properly identified and marketed to the consumer.
A recent Huffington Post article and related PBS video highlights the challenges and complexities associated with labeling seafood. Although the video references several Hawaiian species of fish, the same concepts apply right here off our shores. You can check out the article and video here.
Next week, we will explore how the complex naming system above has led to challenges and even intentional deception when it comes to marketing and selling seafood.