A Deconstruction of the Misdirecting, PR Response to the Scandal
I’m such a word nerd. Every time I hear an advertisement or a public relations announcement, I can’t help picking apart all the misdirecting jargon, the double meanings, the deceptive technicalities. It makes me feel all warm and smug inside.
The Global Aquaculture Alliance recently responded to the discovery reported by ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” that some imported farmed-raised shrimp contain over 28 times the amount of carcinogenic antibiotics allowed by the FDA¹. And I’ve noticed they used a lot of vague, soothing words to do it. Never a good sign.
To clarify, this blog is only intended to criticize this particular response to this particular news story. I do not mean to attack every shrimp farmer in the world, or even the particular shrimp farms in Thailand and India who used the prohibited antibiotics. It’s probable these companies don’t have access to the information, cutting edge technologies, or other, no doubt expensive, alternatives that could keep a shrimp farm afloat and feeding families. Global socio-economics are not my business. Good seafood and good writing are my business. And wow, is this response fishy:
- “Seafood buyers in the US often demand that their suppliers test products for illegal substances, “² Emphasis mine. This is probably meant to suggest that enforcing public safety laws is really just going the extra step for those especially finicky customers. After all, not every customer is opposed to getting cancer, right?
- “Shrimp can now be obtained from certified sources that provide the food safety assurance that consumers demand.”² Well that’s okay then. As long as you have the option of buying shrimp fit for human consumption.
- “[Checking for illegal substances] has become mandatory for certification programs such as Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), which the GAA created specifically to address concerns such as antibiotics in farmed shrimp.”² This can’t be meant to assure me it’s safe to buy imported, farm raised shrimp without a second glance. According to the GAA, these ‘certified’ shrimp only make up around 25% of imported shrimp in America. So what they’re actually saying is ‘it’s safe to buy imported, farm-raised shrimp, but only if you double check to make sure it’s our imported, farm-raised shrimp.’ Well played, Global Aquaculture Alliance. Using PR judo to turn an industry scandal into a marketing advantage. But do you have the standards to back it up?
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Best Aquaculture Practices are more like Better Aquaculture Practices, as their food safety primarily boils down to; “As long as it’s not illegal yet, and you use your chemicals according to the directions, go ahead.” It is not government sponsored, and should not be confused with USDA Certified Organic.
¹ Texas Tech Researchers Discover Antibiotic Residues, Some More than FDA Limits, in Samples from ‘World News with Diane Sawyer’: http://today.ttu.edu/2012/05/texas-tech-researchers-discover-antibiotic-residues-some-more-than-fda-limits-in-samples-from-%E2%80%98world-news-with-diane-sawyer%E2%80%99/
² GAA addresses news story on dangers of farmed shrimp: http://www.fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?monthyear=&day=22&id=52410&l=e&special=&ndb=1%20target