Company caught importing banned Canadian seal oil into the U.S.
Lamb placenta and honey bee royal jelly also falsely labelled
A California-based company is in hot water after allegedly smuggling millions of seal oil capsules into the United States — something that violates the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Walnut, Calif.-based company, UBF Group Inc., is accused of shipping 3.7 million capsules of seal oil from China disguised as “fish oil soft capsules” after an investigation by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
According to an Oct. 3 indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for California, husband-and-wife Lin Liang and Denian Fu — the owners of the company — allegedly sold the seal oil capsules within the U.S., Canada and Vietnam from October 2008 to March 2010.
Though the indictment doesn’t specify that the seal oil was Canadian, organizations such as Harpseals.org and Humane Society International Canada confirmed that the east coast of Canada was the place of origin.
Seal oil is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids that are said to improve cognitive functions and stave off heart disease.
The U.S. banned the seal trade in 1972 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“The U.S. market has been closed to seal products for four decades, despite the efforts of some disreputable companies to circumvent the law,” executive director of HSI Canada Rebecca Aldworth said in a press release.
The Californian company, also known as Nu-Health Products Company, is also alleged to have transported honey bee royal jelly, honey bee propolis and lamb placenta under false names as well. The lamb placenta, for instance, was labelled as aloe vera.
UBF Group also halved the price of the “fish oil” when importing it from China to the U.S. to save money on customs.
The indictment from the U.S. Grand Jury alleges the company was “making and submitting a false record for wildlife imported, exported, transported, sold, purchased, and received from a foreign country.”
The indictment also alleges “entry of goods falsely classified, introduction of a misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, and transporting funds to promote unlawful activity.”
In all, the UBF Group face eight charges and could face up to five years in prison and over $1-million in fines.
“This case should serve as a warning to other companies that smuggling seal products into the United States, or any other region that prohibited seal product trade, is a major offense that carries significant penalties,” Aldworth said.
Seal has been in the spotlight in the U.S. as of late, as celebrity chief Anthony Bourdain recently voiced his support for the seal hunt.
There is currently a campaign amongst chefs in the U.S. to boycott the Canadian seal hunt called Chefs for Seals.