Food Lion supermarkets hook onto sustainable seafood

Food Lion, which operates 1,100 supermarkets in 10 Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, announced it is selling only sustainably sourced fish certified by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

The policy covers about 1,000 fresh, frozen, canned or packaged products sold throughout the stores.

Suppliers have to document full traceability that shows where the fish were harvested, either wild or farmed. Wild-caught fish must come from sustainably managed fisheries that have credible, enforceable, science-based management. Farm-raised seafood must be certified to ensure production doesn't harm communities, workers, the environment or human health.

Food Lion donated 9,000 of its first sustainable seafood products to local food banks in North Carolina, where it's based, and in nearby South Carolina.

"Food Lion has been resolute in following through with its policy's commitments, which has required a great deal of investment on their part," says Jen Levin, Sustainable Seafood Program Manager at Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

The company is owned by Belgium-based Delhaize Group, which also owns the Hannaford supermarket chain — the first US supermarket to address hydrofluorocarbons. Since taking over, both chains have raised the level of their sustainable practices.

Back in 1999, Delhaize joined six other European supermarket chains to jointly source non-GMO food ingredients and additives for their stores. Besides sustainable food sourcing, Delhaize's goal is to lower greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020.

Many of the biggest US supermarkets have committed to sourcing only sustainable seafood, and most policies go into effect next year, such as Target and Kroger.

Perhaps that will help stop seafood fraud — currently the majority of fish are mislabeled. Last year, a group of leading seafood suppliers formed Sea Pact to advance sustainable fisheries and aquaculture practices around the world.

Greenpeace ranks supermarkets on sustainable seafood policies in its annual "Carting Away the Oceans" report. For 2013, Whole Foods is No. 1, followed by Safeway, Trader Joe's, Wegmans, Harris Teeter and Target.

Image of salmon on ice by Kesu via Shutterstock