DNA tests once more reveal issues as to labelling some fish species. (Photo: FDA/Stock File/FIS)
One-fifth of seafood mislabelled: report
Friday, October 28, 2011, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
A Consumer Reports investigation has found that more than one-fifth of 190 samples of seafood obtained from retailers and restaurants in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were misrepresented. The fish was revealed to be mislabelled as different species of fish, incompletely labelled or misidentified by employees.
The report appears in the December 2011 issue of the magazine and online.
Consumer Reports sent the fresh and frozen fish samples to an outside lab for DNA testing. They determined that:
- Only four of the 14 types of the fish bought -- Chilean sea bass, coho salmon and bluefin and ahi tuna -- were always labelled properly.
- 18 per cent of the samples did not match the names on placards, labels or menus. Fish were falsely sold as catfish, grey sole, grouper, halibut, king salmon, lemon sole, red snapper, sockeye salmon and yellowfin tuna.
- 4 per cent were incompletely labelled or misidentified by employees.
- All 10 of the "lemon soles" and 12 of the 22 "red snappers" were something else.
- Tilefish was labelled as grouper; tilefish averages three times as much mercury as grouper. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises women of childbearing age and children to avoid tilefish entirely.
"Americans spent USD 80.2 billion on seafood last year, USD 5 billion more than in 2009, but they aren't always buying what they think they are," said Kim Kleman, editor-in-chief, Consumer Reports. "Whether deliberate or not, substitution hurts consumers three ways: in their wallet, when expensive seafood is switched for less desirable, cheaper fish; in their health, when they mistakenly eat species that are high in mercury or other contaminants; and in their conscience, if they find out they've mistakenly bought species whose numbers are low."
Consumer Reports testing showed that three of the 21 "catfish" samples were actually Pangasius hypophthalmus, or sutchi catfish, which are largely imported from Vietnam, where some fish farmers use drugs that are banned in the US, the report said.
The FDA can give companies warning letters, seize seafood and prevent businesses from importing fish if it detects fraud. However, FDA experts say it is primarily the responsibility of state and local agencies to regulate retail food stores and restaurants.
But in the states where the tested fish was purchased, state officials said their inspectors are not trained to differentiate among fish species.
Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, has called for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to define catfish broadly, so inspectors can regulate all domestic and imported catfish species, and to require testing for aquaculture drugs that are illegal in the US but used overseas.
- 38 pc of salmon mislabelled: study
By Natalia Real