Mislabeld Seafood: A health problem

January 10, 2013

According to a conservation group, mislabeling seafood is a widespread problem presenting customers with a health problem.

Sushi lovers watch out! A recent study from the conservation group Oceana showed that 39% of seafood samples, from 81 New York City establishments... expensive restaurants to cheaper restaurants to specialty shops... were mislabeled.

And perhaps even more alarming? One hundred percent of sushi restaurants tested in the study had at least one species of mislabeled fish!

According to Oceana this is a widespread problem. New York's rate of seafood mislabeling was higher than Miami's at 31 percent, but topping both these cities was Boston at 48 percent and Los Angeles at 55 percent!

In some cases cheaper fish was substituted for more expensive fish and in other cases, rarer and low stocked seafood was replaced by a more common fish.

So not only are customers being duped, but customers are also presented with a health problem. For example, 13 types of fish, like tilapia and tilefish were labeled as red snapper. Tilefish is one of the fish that the FDA recommends pregnant women avoid due to high mercury. And 94 percent of fish labeled as white tuna was actually snake mackeral, or escobar, which contains a toxin that can cause severe diarrhea.

So, how can this happen you ask? We spoke with Gavin Gibbons at National Fisheries who says this is an enforcement problem or rather, a lack of enforcement. But with the right investigations it could be easy to figure out whether the mislabeling is coming from the supplier or the establishment.

He also suggested always asking the supplier if they are a member of the Better Seafood Board – the only organization working to ensure seafood transparency.