The following letter was sent to IntraFish by Roger O’Brien, president and CEO of Santa Monica Seafood, in response to the opinion column, "Imitation seafood poses a far bigger threat than you think," by Executive Editor John Fiorillo.
I want to thank you for your excellent series of articles on artificial seafood. The seafood industry needs to wake up to this threat so what has happened in the dairy industry doesn’t happen in the seafood industry.
The plant-based, non-dairy market in the US today represents 15 percent of the overall dairy market, and it has been growing faster and faster each year … growing 50 percent in 2018 alone. Plant-based, non-dairy milk started out primarily with soy but now includes almond, oat, rice, pea, cashew, coconut, potato, flax and hemp. In my opinion, the cow-milk industry never woke up to this threat and now it’s too late.
I’m not against plant-based milk, but is it labeled correctly? The USDA needs to insist that all micro-nutrients, added sugar, emulsifier additives and the like present in the various plant-based milk products be disclosed on the nutrition label of these products. Many are not.
I’m not against plant-based seafood either. But again, label them correctly and stop calling them names like “plant-based shrimp” when there is no shrimp or any other fish included in the ingredients. These companies are intentionally misleading consumers. If they don’t have any type of seafood as an ingredient, they should not be allowed to use words like “shrimp” and “seafood” as part of the name.
These plant-based food companies need to be more transparent on the heavy processing their products go through as well as the long list of GMO ingredients, powders and starches that are included and the related nutritional issues. Consumers are being misled and the average consumer thinks they’re eating seafood, given the labeling, when they’re not.
I’ve pushed the [National Fisheries Institute] to include this topic at the annual NFI conference to be held in Orlando in January 2020. It agreed and has insisted I be the panel leader/moderator. The name of the session is “Plant-based Proteins: Are Fishless Fish and Meatless Meat Disrupters?"
I plan to have a representative from the dairy industry present to talk about what they’ve been going through for the past decade, and your series of articles have provided good support.