Published Academic Study Finds Pervasive Short-Weighting in Indonesian Shrimp

Last month, the academic journal Food Control published an article by researchers (McKenna Rivers, Alexia Campbell, Chris Lee, Pragati Kapoor, and Rosalee Hellberg) at the Schmid College of Science and technology at Chapman University (California) with the results from testing 106 samples of frozen shrimp purchased at grocery stores in Southern California. The researchers investigated Country-of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) compliance, species labeling, accuracy of market names, net weights, and the percentage of glazing. 

The published study, Short-Weighting, Species Authentication, and Labeling Compliance of Prepackaged Frozen Shrimp Sold in Grocery Stores in Southern California, confirmed that over-glazing and short-weighting of shrimp remains a significant issue confronting consumers purchasing shrimp at retail. For example, the Chapman University researchers found that over one out of every four of the samples of shrimp evaluated had a glazing percentage of over twenty percent. The authors explained that “{o]verglazing was associated with 17 of the 43 commercial brands analyzed in the study, indicating that it is a widespread practice.” Overglazing was found to be a commonly-found characteristic of both imported and domestic shrimp, as well as farm-raised and wild-caught, as the study observes that four of the fourteen samples (28.6%) of domestic shrimp, twenty-four of the ninety-two samples (26.1%) of imported shrimp, twenty-two of the eighty samples (27.5%) of farm-raised shrimp, and six of the twenty-four samples (25.0%) of wild-caught shrimp were found to be overglazed. 

Short-weighting was found to be even more prevalent and was confirmed in more than one out of three samples investigated. The researchers detected short-weighting in thirty-nine of their 106 samples (36.8%) and with respect to 23 of the 43 commercial brands analyzed in the study. The study observed that short-weighting was found at similar rates of incidence for both domestic (five of fourteen – 36%) and imported (thirty-four of ninety-two – 37%) shrimp. But the researchers also explained that the majority of the findings of short-weighted shrimp could be traced to Indonesian-origin shrimp, as these comprised twenty-five of the thirty-nine instances of short-weighting detected. In fact, the authors reported that 71% (twenty-five of thirty-five) of the Indonesian shrimp sampled was short-weighted. 

The authors explained that short-weighting significantly overcharged consumers for weight attributable to water rather than shrimp, noting that the biggest fraud could be traced to Argentinian wild-caught shrimp: “The most extreme instance of short-weighting was observed in a bag of extra jumbo Argentine red shrimp that had a declared net weight of 907 g and a deglazed weight of only 773.2 g (85.2% of the declared net weight). The product was sold for US $22.04/kg, meaning that consumers overpaid US$3.26/kg.” 

“The flood of shrimp imports into this country driven by subsidies from foreign governments and multilateral development institutions had destroyed the American market for shrimp,” said John Williams, the Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “While shrimp boats are tied up across our southern coast, some of our foreign competitors are also struggling to compete with the surplus of cheap, unfairly-traded shrimp and selling water rather than shrimp may be one way for the Indonesian industry to continue to make sales here. No one is protecting consumers from getting ripped off, so studies like the one from Chapman University are important checks on economic fraud.”  

Read the abstract of M. Rivers, A. Campbell, C. Lee, P. Kapoor, & R. Hellberg’s Short-weighting, Species Authorization and Labeling Compliance of Prepackaged Frozen Shrimp Sold in Grocery Stores in Southern California, Food Control (Sept. 6, 2023) here:

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