Report: Seafood Fraud is Widespread

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Up to a third of fish sold in the country may be mislabeled. It's especially bad at sushi restaurants.

A few weeks ago we mentioned a Massachusetts effort to penalize mislabeled fish. The problem’s much bigger than just one state, though.

A new research report from conservation group Oceana found 33 percent of more than 1,200 U.S. samples it DNA-tested were mislabeled.

Snapper and tuna labels were the most frequently inaccurate: 87 and 59 percent of the time, respectively. Only seven out of 120 “red snapper” samples actually were that fish. Halibut and cod also had a one in five chance of being mislabeled.

Fish tested at sushi restaurants were inaccurate 74 percent of the time. All sushi restaurants tested in Chicago, Austin, New York, and Washington D.C. had some kind of mislabeled fish.

The study involved 674 locations in 21 states over a three-year period. There’s no way to tell at what point the fraud was committed – when it was sold, when it was distributed, or when it was caught. But the point is, while mislabeling is illegal, there’s very little oversight.

According to a USA Today report, only 2 percent of seafood is investigated for fraud. And aside from people overpaying for fake pricy fish, some substitutes could pose health risks. Escolar, often mislabeled as tuna, can cause digestive issues.

Stacy Johnson

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