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LETTER: Fiorillo gets it wrong on imitation seafood

Imitation seafood poses a far bigger threat than you think

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The following letter was sent to IntraFish by J. Douglas Hines, chairman and general partner of Atlantic Natural Foods, LLC., which produces plant-based protein alternatives, including the Loma Linda brand of Tuno, in response to the opinion column, "Imitation seafood poses a far bigger threat than you think," by Executive Editor John Fiorillo.

As a leader in the in the global seafood industry for more than 40 years, I have witnessed more than most in today’s seafood world.

Over the decades, our oceans have been abused by rampant IUU fishing, social responsibilities ignored, vessels appearing to misreport catches, trash piles on the high seas that vessels have to steam around, occasional corruption, quality degradation with triopoly phosphates in shrimp, "smoked" tuna by adding sodium nitrates, glazing, and in some products more additives than you can add up.

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The author is correct, there is no "fake fish"—imitation shrimp, salmon or tuna— as there is with crab. There also is no fake chicken, beef or pork. There is a legal species designation for each of these proteins that should be adhered to under federal regulations.

However, there is a plant-based protein alternative creation that has like-food application in preparation and delivery. Just as when NFI was fighting to have a new designation for fish that was labeled crab but had the same application. What do we call land-based, GMO salmon or other lab grown fish from cells?

"Rather than sit by and offer desperate commentary, my colleagues and I are working to make a difference"

If the writer is not aware of global population growing from 7.1 billion today to 9 billion plus by 2050, changing climate effect with Global Warming and overfishing throughout most of the world’s oceans, etc., then he may not realize the world requires alternatives to meet the protein demand for future generations.

Whether we are fighting to keep things as they are or as they were, I would suggest that a worse fate that awaits us is to wake up one day and find that due to our mismanagement of our resources there is little left to eat on our planet.

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I am pragmatic and care about our future and believe the seafood industry needs to create alternative delivery and style to have a future by creating products that meet a generational need. The industry must stop placing blame on others for the misdeeds created by years of abuse by us all.

The real threat is not alternative food creation, it is our inability to manage and protect our ocean’s resources. We must eliminate IUUs illegal harvest, address climate impacts in harvest cycles, stop the use of child labor in the supply chain, and no longer treat the seas as a garbage dump.

Rather than sit by and offer desperate commentary, my colleagues and I are working to make a difference by creating new and healthy protein sources. By doing this, hopefully my grand kids will be able to enjoy seafood in their diet while protecting the livelihood of 60 million engaged in fishing and 3 billion who rely on seafood as their primary food source.

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John Fiorillo's response: Mr. Hines, thanks for your letter. I feel compelled to address a few points you made.

First, I am aware of the projected growth in global population and its relationship to the food supply, and it will be great if your plant-based products contribute to staving off world hunger. But to point out the obvious, climate change is affecting agricultural production, just as it is seafood production. So there is no guarantee that the plants you use to produce your seafood alternatives will be compatible with a changing climate.

What bothers me about your comments, however, is how much time was spent writing of the ills of the seafood industry, which supported you for decades, in order to market your product.

I see an industry that has made tremendous strides in sustainability, fisheries management, social responsibility, aquaculture and many other aspects of seafood production. Selling plant food intentionally disguised as seafood, while decrying what you see as the ills of the actual seafood industry producing real fish and shellfish is disingenuous.

Lastly, I think you missed the entire point of my column, so let me reiterate: stop labeling your products as seafood and label them what they are: soy, or beans or peas or whatever else you use to make your artificial fish.

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