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Smells Fishy: Do You Know What’s On Your Plate?

3 comments

Up to half of sea food sold is mislabeled to cause consumers to believe they eating higher quality (more expensive) fish than they are actually being served says advocacy group Oceana.

Diane Sawyer reported this fraud on World News Tonight:

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The problem doesn't just exist in Florida, but across the country. Oceana's findings:

  • Florida – 31% of seafood mislabeled
  • Boston – 48% of seafood mislabeled
  • Los Angeles – 55% of seafood mislabeled

A common "substitutions" include serving king mackerel sold as grouper. King mackerel is a cheaper fish, but can also be high in mercury and cause health concerns for pregnant women and others. Another "substitution" includes serving escolar (which can make people sick) in place of "white tuna".

The most frequently mislabeled fish appears to be snapper. In the Florida study, red snapper was mislabeled 86% of the time. In the Los Angeles study, every single sample sold as "snapper" (34 of 34) was mislabeled.

If purchasing these fish or ordering at a restaurant, you be careful to pay close attention to price, cut quality, and preparation.

"A piece of tuna sushi has the potential to be an endangered species, a fraud, or a health hazard."

- Lowenstein, et al. 2009 as quoted by Oceana

Commonly mislabeled seafood, according to Oceana, include:

Commonly Mislabeled Sea Food – Source: Oceana
YOU PURCHASED YOU RECEIVED
Red Snapper Slender Pinjala, Channel Catfish, Rockfish, Tilapia, Nile Perch, Mahi Mahi, Mullet Snapper, Malabar Blood Snapper, Atlantic Cod
Mahi Mahi Yellowtail
Grouper Channel Catfish, Hake, Tilapia, Alaska Pollock, Nile Perch
Wild Salmon Farmed Salmon
Swordfish Mako Shark
Bluefin Tuna Bigeye Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna
White Tuna Escolar
White Snapper White Hake
Atlantic Cod Alaska Pollock, Norwegian Pollock, Whiting, Saithe, Escolar
Chilean Sea Bass White Bass, Striped Bass
Shark Meat Nile Perch
Red Drum Black Drum
Halibut Sea Bass, Deep-Water Cape Hake
Haddock Saithe
Anchovies Icefish
Orange Roughy Oreo Dory, John Dory
Red Mullet Spotted Goatfish
Monkfish Pufferfish

Though seafood can offer health benefits – including healthy Omega-3 – it can also be a high-risk food when improperly sourced, handled, or prepared. Health risks increase with mislabeling. Despite the health risks, only 2% of US seafood is inspected and only 0.001% of seafood is inspected for mislabeling.

Affordable technology now exists to track seafood fully from ship to plate. Such systems are already in effect in Europe and should be implemented here in the U.S. We deserve to know what is on our plates and what we are putting into our bodies.

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(c) Copyright 2012 Brett A. Emison

Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter.

3 Comments

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  1. Michele B eckett says:
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    Why aren’t we getting truth about Fish being imported from Asia as regards to the Nuclear Waste in Waters? Going to wait until people start dying, per usual

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    The non profit Got Mercury has been testing seafood for over a decade. Swordfish and tuna tested for mercury are commonly several times the Action level. The FDA is not testing, not advising and has an action level that is unactionable. The industry would have us believe that there is no harm in eating high mercury fish. The government’s own studies and advisories indicate that mercury is a real health threat to vulnerable members of the American population. Calculate your mercury dose from seafood at http://www.gotmercury.org.

  3. Got Mercury says:
    up arrow

    The non profit Got Mercury has been testing seafood for over a decade. Swordfish and tuna tested for mercury are commonly several times the Action level. The FDA is not testing, not advising and has an action level that is unactionable. The industry would have us believe that there is no harm in eating high mercury fish. The government’s own studies and advisories indicate that mercury is a real health threat to vulnerable members of the American population. Calculate your mercury dose from seafood at http://www.gotmercury.org.