Maddie Oatman at Mother Jones called attention to a highly disturbing Consumer Reports investigation from earlier this year that found that more than 20 percent of seafood purchased at eateriers and stories in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were “improperly labeled or identified” … meaning that fish you thought was tilapia may have been something else altogether.
Red snapper was the most frequently fraudulent fish; CR sent 22 samples of fish labed as such to discover that only 8 were possible DNA matches. The others were either unidentifiable or mislabeled. A similar investigation in Boston by the Oceana Insitute had comparable results: 1 in 5 fish samples were mislabled.
The Consumer Reports investigation also found that fish were incorrectly labled as being Pacific-origin when they were actually from the Atlantic Ocean. This is distubing, considering that fish from the Pacific is often considered to be healthier and while labels don’t have to distinguish between the two locales, to out and out mislead consumers is just wrong. This is a violation made even more serious by the increasing number of shoppers who choose fish based on health needs and concerns over sustainability.
Oceana discovered that, of the 84 percent of seafood eaten in the US that is imported, only two percent is inspected upon arrival, and only 0.001 percent is tested for fraud. CR found that inspectors for the three states in their investigation are trained to check for fish safety, not species.
Oatman recommends following Consumer Reports’ advice and asking restaurant and store managers/chefs questions about the fish they serve, which may increase their concern about fish sources. Customers are also warned to be leery of “suspiciously” cheap fish, which fills me with great regret over the $5.99/lb salmon I devoured in Chicago last month.