20 Percent of Seafood Purchases Aren’t What You Think They Are
Salmon, grouper and snapper are the most commonly mislabeled fishing United States.
You may think you're getting a great deal on wild salmon that you could be getting swindled according to a nonprofit watchdog group Oceana. Seafood fraud and mislabeling is rampant across the industry and occurs at every step of the process, from fishing boat or farm to grocery stores and restaurants.
Examine the prevalence of seafood fraud around the world, Oceana reviewed more than 200 previously published studies from 55 countries. All these studies tested more than 25,000 samples of seafood.
On average, 20% of the samples were marketed as something other than what they really were. Even more, 58% of the fake samples turned out to be species that could pose health risks because of parasites, environmental chemicals, higher allergy rest and other dangers.
The results were consistent. Every study but one found evidence of seafood fraud at some point in the supply chain possibly during landing, packaging, processing, import or export, distribution, wholesale or retail.
In the United States, the rate of fraud was even higher than the global estimate. It was higher by about 28%. The fish most likely to be mislabeled or snapper, grouper and salmon.
Typically a lower value fish is swapped in like tilapia or Asian catfish. Asian catfish was substituted for 18 different types of higher-priced fish. In 2015, a Santa Monica sushi restaurant was caught selling endangered whale meat as fatty tuna.
Passing off farmed salmon as wild caught is also very common in the United States. Along with a full report their findings of fraud around the country and around the world.
Seafood fraud can be difficult to catch at the consumer level. That is why Oceana and other organizations are fighting for better regulations and more accountability in the industry.
Here's some things you can do to reduce your chances of buying fraudulent fish:
Buy as close to the whole fish as possible.
The more time seafood changes hands or goes down supply food chain, the more opportunities for seafood fraud. It's easier to pass off parts of fish without the scales and head. Buying the whole fish from the market and having them prepare it for you is a good way to know what you're getting.
As questions at the counter or the table.
Whether you're in a restaurant or the supermarket make sure the people that sell you seafood can tell you where and how it was caught.
Consider the price
If you see wild Pacific salmon selling for $6.99 a pound it might not be wild Pacific salmon. If the price seems too good to be true it is.
Choose brands that trace their seafood
Plenty of restaurants and supermarket chains like Whole Foods require that the seafood they sell be responsibly sourced and traced from start to finish. You should be able to as a consumer obtain this information. When you buy prepackaged frozen seafood look for this information on the label.
Support the fight for better legislation
Some of these fraudulent cases occur because the laws that do exist are not well enforced.
For example 66 different species can be sold as grouper in the United States making it impossible for people to know what they are buying. It is the vague labeling rules that potentially cheat consumers, harm their health and make them accessories to fishing are aquaculture practices that are illegal or harm the environment.
In all circumstances, better legislation is needed. Earlier this year, a presidential task force proposed a rule that would require traceability for 13 at risk types of seafood from when they're caught or harvested until they reached the United States border. It is a good first step but still not enough.
The fight against seafood fraud includes all seafood and extends from boat to plate. It shouldn't be hard for consumers to know what fish they are eating and have confidence with what's on the label or on the menu.