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ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Wegmans Food Markets here said yesterday it is adopting what it called "the most comprehensive and stringent standards ever adopted by a major U.S. retailer" for purchasing farmed shrimp.
Wegmans said it is rolling out shrimp bought under this policy in all of its stores. The only supplier so far that is in compliance with Wegmans' policy, which it created in collaboration with New York-based environmental advocacy group Environmental Defense, is Belize Aquaculture, Ltd.. Wegmans said it is working with four other producers that it hopes will comply as well.
"In 2006 we introduced farmed King salmon raised under environmental standards developed by Environmental Defense," said Wegmans v.p. of seafood Carl Salamone in a statement. "Today's announcement about Farmed Shrimp from Belize is an expansion of our efforts to offer seafood that meets the toughest health and environmental standards."
The Belize shrimp would go for $1 more a pound than shrimp not in compliance with the policy, Salamone said, because it's "a little more costly for shrimp to be raised in this manner."
Wegmans communications specialist Jeanne Colleluori said the new policy would enable shoppers to make informed choices in the grocers' stores. She added that the shrimp would be promoted by special signage declaring, "We're proud of this shrimp. Ask us why."
Under Wegmans' new performance-based standards, farmed shrimp producers must eliminate the use of antibiotics and other chemicals, avoid harming sensitive habitats, treat their waste water, and lower the use of wild fish to feed shrimp, among other actions. Suppliers will be required to file an annual report showing their compliance with the standards, and that report will be audited by a third party.
During the press conference, Becky Goldburg, senior scientist, Oceans Program, Environmental Defense, said that farmed shrimp producers must meet at least nine of the 12 standards to qualify, including strict standards for levels of PCBs and other contaminants, and comply with local laws, and suppliers will then have one year to adopt all 12.
The policy affects only the fresh seafood case, which as of today will only feature shrimp from Belize and wild-caught American shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, noted Salamone.
The standards can be reviewed in detail at www.environmentaldefense.org/shrimp. Wegmans' Web site also features a Q&A on the purchasing policy.
Farmed shrimp produced according to this policy will earn a "best choice" or "green" from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program and Environmental Defense.
Wegmans said it plans to build on this initiative by working with all of the retailer's aquaculture suppliers to meet similar standards.
Shrimp, the No. 1 seafood in the country, accounts for about 25 percent of all seafood consumed in the United States annually. Americans eat over 1.3 billion pounds of shrimp per year, almost three-quarters of which is farmed.
Family-owned Wegmans operates 71 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland.