NC restaurant owner will soon be sentenced for falsely labeling seafood. Why this should concern you

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s the time of day when Executive Chef Eric Montagne and his crew are getting ready for the lunch crowd.

It’s a group of patrons who will expect the seafood to be good, fresh and local.

“So really for us, fish goes from the boat to the fish house to here,” said Montagne.

That’s all you’re going to get at locals oyster bar. To make sure it is Chef Montagne says its all about knowing everything about where the seafood is coming from.

“Traceability is always a concern that’s why it’s important that you know who it is you’re working with you develop a relationship and form some trust there,” he said.

Unfortunately, not everyone can be trusted. The owner of Captain Neils Seafood, Phillip Carawan, in Columbia, North Carolina is waiting to be sentenced after he pleaded guilty to falsely labeling millions of dollars worth of foreign crabmeat as “Product of the USA”.  

Adding to the concern a University of North Carolina lead forensics team recently released a study that found 34 percent of shrimp they tested in grocery stores and seafood markets in the state were labeled as local but actually came from the Pacific.

“Most people don’t understand how much of a problem it really is,” says Ryan Speckman who owns Locals Seafood in Raleigh.

While he says his company makes absolutely sure their product is labeled correctly he has a great concern about those that don’t.  

“It devalues the natural resource, the taxpayer natural resource, it devalues the working waterman fisherman what they do and maybe the most important concern is the food safety aspect for the consumer,” Speckman told CBS 17.

Like how many hands has it passed through, how much time has passed, refrigeration and chemicals used to maintain color and freshness.  

Another issue is that other countries have different safety standards.  

“Even from a restaurant point of view when you get into a relationship with a purveyor you’ve got to do your research and make sure they’re credible and they’re not cutting corners and they’re out there actually doing what they say they’re doing,” said Chef Montagne.

The bottom line is when people buy local they want a guarantee it actually is local.

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