A new study finds the seafood you may be serving your family tonight may not be what you think.
Oceana unveiled the largest of its kind national seafood fraud report Thursday, finding that a third of the 1,215 fish samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states, were mislabeled. Researchers performed DNA tests on the samples.
What’s perhaps more disturbing is they found if you live in Austin, Houston or Boston it’s especially widespread. According to the investigation, almost half of the fish tested in these cities was mislabeled. In fact, according to Oceana, every sushi sample taken in Austin was mislabeled.
UPDATE: Breakdown for Austin
KVUE asked for more information from Oceana to get a bit of perspective on the scope of these findings. Below is the breakdown for Austin and Houston:
Oceana tested 43 fish samples in Austin and Houston and found 49 percent of those or 21 of them were mislabeled – meaning what they ordered was not the fish they got. Snapper was the most likely to be mislabeled – 91 percent of the times it was ordered it was not snapper. Only one sample of salmon was mislabeled.
Nearly half (48 percent) of the 27 retail outlets visited in Austin and Houston sold mislabeled fish. Of the 12 restaurants sampled 7 mislabeled fish. Of the 21 grocery stores sampled, four samples were mislabeled. All 10 of the seafood samples purchased from sushi restaurants, all located in Austin, were mislabeled as well.
Here’s a map of the testing.
The researchers sampled seafood from retail outlets including restaurants, sushi venues and grocery stores. Sushi restaurants were the worst offenders (74 percent), followed by restaurants (38 percent) grocery stores (18 percent).
In Southern California more than half (52 percent) of the seafood tested was mislabeled.
Here are a few of the other breakdowns:
- 39 percent in New York City.
- 38 percent in Northern California and South Florida
- 36 percent in Denver
- 35 percent in Kansas City
- 32 percent in Chicago
- 26 percent in Washington, D.C.
- 21 percent in Portland
- 18 percent in Seattle
According to the scientists, “Not only can seafood fraud rip you off by making you pay more for less expensive fish but it can actually be bad for your health. Our scientists found that some fish that had landed a spot on the FDA’s “DO NOT EAT” list for sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children because of its high mercury content was nonetheless being substituted for safer fish. In New York this meant tilefish disguised as red snapper and halibut, while in South Florida king mackerel became grouper. Elsewhere escolar, an oily fish that is known for its purgative effects in some consumers, was substituted 84% of the time for white tuna.”
Most common types of fish mislabeled in this study:
- Snapper 84 percent
- Tuna 59 percent
Right now the United States imports more than 90 percent of the seafood it consumes, but the FDA inspects less than one percent of that seafood specifically for fraud.
What can you do?
Ask questions when you buy seafood.
Check the price. If it’s too low, that’s a sign of a potential problem.
Get the whole fish when available. That ensures you’re getting what you want.
Monday last day to weigh in on genetically modified salmon
This Monday is the last day to comment on the genetically modified salmon the FDA recommended approving. Check the story I did earlier this month to learn more.