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Tuna and escolar sashimi (Photo: http://blog.medellitin.com)

Study finds 39 per cent of NY fish mislabelled

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 04:10 (GMT + 9)

According to a new study conducted by Oceana, some three out of five New York City grocery stores and restaurants have mislabelled part of their seafood stock, substituting varieties that could cause health problems.

The ocean conservation group said in the study that around 39 per cent of the fish studied was inaccurately identified. Cheap fish is often substituted for more expensive varieties and plentiful species for scarce ones. Using forensic DNA analysis, they revealed that 58 per cent of 81 sampled New York retailers and restaurants incorrectly labelled the seafood they sold.

"It's unacceptable that New York seafood lovers are being duped more than one-third of the time when purchasing certain types of fish," said Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana.

In some instances, the mis-labelling could potentially pose health risks. Blueline tilefish posed as halibut and red snapper. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed tilefish on its “do-not-eat” list, due to its high mercury content.

An equally alarming figure is that 16 of the 17 white tuna samples obtained from sushi restaurants turned out to be escolar, a fish with diarrhoea-inducing properties. All sushi restaurants tested sold some form of mislabelled fish.

Fraudulent salmon was most often Atlantic salmon being substituted for wild salmon. Wild Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, is all but commercially extinct, but Pacific salmon is almost entirely wild caught. In a few cases, one type of wild salmon was substituted for another. However, fish substituted for king salmon were all farmed Atlantic salmon.

Farmed pangasius and hake were among the fish substituted for cod. Pacific cod was substituted for Atlantic cod, while Nile perch, and bream were substituted for grouper, while flounder stood in for all the lemon sole purchased.

When compared to other US cities, New York's rate of seafood mislabelling was higher than Miami's 31 per cent, but lower than Boston’s 48 per cent and Los Angeles’ 55 per cent.

Warner said that what distinguishes New York's seafood from that of the other cities tested is the presence of smaller, independent food stores, 40 per cent of which sold mislabelled fish. In contrast, only 12 percent of seafood bought at larger stores in the city were labelled incorrectly.

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