Red snapper, one of the targeted species found to be mislabelled. (Photo: Stock File)
Half of seafood in Southern California mislabelled: study
Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 15:10 (GMT + 9)
A new report by environmental group Oceana outlines the widespread seafood mislabelling found in the Los Angeles area. DNA testing has determined that more than half (55 per cent) of the seafood sampled by Oceana was mislabelled based on federal law.
In May and December of 2011, Oceana staff and supporters collected 119 seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues in Los Angeles and Orange counties. They targeted species that were found to be mislabelled in previous studies and also those with regional significance such as wild salmon, Dover or other regional soles, red snapper, yellowtail and white tuna.
Eighteen types of seafood were gathered and studied to find whether the seafood was properly labelled under both California and US law. The report is part of Oceana’s new campaign to stop seafood fraud.
The report’s key findings include:
- Fraud was detected in 11 out of 18 different types of fish purchased.
- Every single fish sold with the word “snapper” in the label (34 out of 34) was mislabelled, according to federal guidelines. Consumers buying fish labelled “snapper” in Southern California may actually receive anything from farmed tilapia to pollock, in addition to any one of the overfished or vulnerable rockfish species.
- Nearly nine out of every 10 sushi samples was mislabelled. Sushi eateries ranked the highest at 87 per cent, followed by restaurants at 45 per cent and grocery stores at 31 per cent.
- Eight out of nine sushi samples labelled as “white tuna” were actually escolar, a snake mackerel species that carries a health warning for its purgative effects.
Oceana detected different types of fraud: confusing and misleading use of vernacular terms; disguising well-managed, vulnerable and overfished species under a single name; substituting one species that carries a health warning for another; and economic fraud, or substituting cheaper or less desirable fish for the marketed fish in pursuit of higher profits.
To prevent and “discourage dishonest practices along the increasingly obscure seafood supply chain," the report recommends stepping up inspection for seafood mislabelling.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Spokesperson Douglas Karas said the agency is working to establish how often or at what point in the supply chain fish substitution takes place. Most of the seafood fraud complaints the FDA receives originate from consumers at the retail level, he said.
The FDA is running a year-long DNA test of about 800 fish collected across the US, Los Angeles Times reports.
- 38 pc of salmon mislabelled: study
By Natalia Real