Overfished and vulnerable species were substituted for more sustainable catch. Examples include Atlantic halibut sold as Pacific halibut, and speckled hind sold as red grouper.
* 74 percent of sushi venues had the worst level of mislabeling—the worst level of all retail outlets
Other results showed that of the most commonly collected types of fish, snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates across the county at 87 and 59 percent, respectively.
In addition to these results, Oceana noted other findings, including the fact that today, more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported. Less than one percent is inspected by the government specifically for fraud.
Because our fish often travels a long way to get to us, it becomes more and more difficult to determine where the fraud is occurring. It could be on the original fishing boat, during processing, at the retail counter, or somewhere else in between. It may be the result of honest mistakes, but often, it comes about because mislabeling disguises fish that are less desirable, cheaper, or more readily available, stuffing somebody’s pocketbook.
In fact, in an August follow-up to the February report, Oceana noted that Americans are paying a high price for fish fraud. Report author Margot Stiles noted that swapping a lower-cost fish for a higher-value one is like ordering a filet mignon and getting a hamburger instead. She added that if consumers eat mislabeled fish even once a week, they could be losing up to hundreds of dollars each year.
Oceana has called on the federal government to require traceability of all seafood sold in the U.S. Stiles noted that consumers deserve to know the seafood is safe, legally caught, and honestly labeled, including information like where, when, and how it was taken out of the ocean. The group supports the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE) Act pending in Congress.
Tips to Help
Meanwhile, what can you do to increase the odds that what you order is what you get? Unless you do your own DNA testing, you can never be completely sure, but you can try these tips to increase your odds of getting the right thing.
If you eat fish:
* Go directly to the source: Skip the middleman and buy directly from the fishermen at the farmer’s market or pier.
* Trace and Trust: This is a program that provides information on the source of seafood. “Trace Register” is another one. Check with grocery chains like Wegmans and Whole Foods and other restaurants offering information through these companies. An ID number, when put into the computer, shows you the species, when the batch was caught, and a picture of the boat captain. The Marine Stewardship Council (http://msc.org
) also offers certification of where seafood comes from, and Fish2Fork has a list of restaurants that serve sustainable seafood.
* Go with the odds: According to the study, flounder and tilapia were least likely to be mislabeled. Red snapper, grouper, and halibut were most likely to be mislabeled.
* Go to the supermarket: Grocery stores had the lowest rate of mislabeling. When in doubt, pick up something at the store and cook it up at home.
* Go big: Large national chains, like Whole Foods, were less likely to have problems than smaller chains and independent grocery chains, because most big guys have internal auditing procedures designed to prevent fish fraud.
* Go online: If you don’t live near the ocean and can’t talk directly to the fishermen, try ethical online stores including I Love Blue Sea or Vital Choice for your seafood purchases.
p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts, and tell your friends to do the same. Also check out my website’s To Your Health page and Evolution Made Easier blog for more helpful health tips, tools and information.
Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.