What does the term “PUFI” stand for on some of the seafood product I buy and sell?
The seafood industry has a voluntary inspection system as it is not required that seafood be processed under government inspection. This is very different than all the meat items such as beef, pork, poultry, etc. In these categories it is against the law to sell any product that has not been processed under strict USDA regulations. Even this is sometimes confusing to consumers.
In many supermarkets there are huge signs over the meat cases stating that “Our meats are USDA inspected”” This, of course, does not mean anything because all meats are required to be inspected by law. In the supermarket where I shop there is a big bold sign stating that they only sell “USDA Inspected Veal.” Once again, the only kind of veal that is legal to sell is “USDA Inspected Veal.” This is misleading because it makes people believe they are getting something extra.
There was a recent case of a restaurant operator cited for selling ducks that were not inspected. The restaurant operator was killing the wild ducks and processing them in his kitchen. When he was caught, it cost him a heavy duty fine! However, with seafood you can dig your own clams, catch your own fish, or trap your own lobsters and go directly to your restaurant and prepare them.
According to the seafood industry your chances of getting sick on seafood that is properly handled and refrigerated are only one in a million. However, when you see the “PUFI” stamp on a box it means the products are guaranteed to be safe, wholesome, good flavor and odor, properly labeled and produced in an official inspected establishment.
PUFI stands for “Packed Under Federal Inspection.” The processing company has paid to have the US Department of Commerce (USDC) inspect their product. As in the meat business there are many terms that are misused when it comes to labels. Terms such as “United States,” “Officially graded,” Officially inspected,” “Government inspected”, and “Officially sampled” are sometimes on the containers or labels and are used in such a way to make it appear that the product has been “Packed Under Federal Inspection.”
When it comes to buying fresh seafood the best precaution is to be sure you know your supplier, as well as where and how the product was processed.