New Web Site Will Tell You If It's Real
TALLAHASSEE - Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is unveiling a new Web site that will help consumers determine whether the grouper they buy is the real deal - - or a substitution.
Grouper is one of Florida's prized seafood species and Florida provides more than 90 percent of the nation's supply of the fish. Overall, Florida's fishermen harvest over 9 million pounds of seafood annually, with a dockside value of about $165 million.
Bronson's Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing has developed a Web site that provides tips on purchasing grouper. The Web site comes in the wake of a series of cases where merchants mistakenly or purposely sold cheaper substitutes to customers without their knowledge. Because of its limited supply and relatively high price, Florida grouper has been targeted by unscrupulous merchants who want to profit from its popularity. There have been instances where restaurants, wholesalers and retailers have substituted a lesser-value fish and mislabeled it as grouper.
"Florida law prohibits an establishment from misrepresenting the identity of a seafood product," Bronson said. "Selling a cheaper species takes advantage of consumers and will not be tolerated in this state."
Bronson's department and other state agencies including the Florida Attorney General's Office and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates restaurants, have been investigating these illegal practices and placing fines on establishments that misrepresent seafood species. Some restaurants indicate the fish was mislabeled when they received it from the wholesalers.
To protect themselves against product mislabeling, consumers can visit www.FL-Seafood.com The Web site provides:
"I encourage consumers to visit www.FL-Seafood.com and educate themselves about what to look for when buying grouper," Bronson said. "And people who suspect they've been given a substitute species should report it. Florida's fishermen have built a reputation for harvesting quality seafood. We do not want unscrupulous merchants to tarnish that had-earned image."
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