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Fish Fraud

By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD

Fish

Something fishy is going on in the seafood industry.

This past week, findings from a study on “seafood fraud” were published by Oceana.

More than 1200 seafood samples were DNA tested in big cities including NYC, Chicago, D.C. Austin and Boston – and some type of fishy-fraud was found in 100% of the places Oceana tested.  Fish mislabeling occurred, on average, 33% of the time – and in certain areas (hello, Southern California and Boston) it was far higher – around 50%. Freaky, as I’d consider those to be fish-savvy places.

So why the fish-fakeouts? Some kinds of fish, like tilapia and grouper are more abundant and much cheaper than, say, snapper. But who would really know the difference? Chances are, not your taste buds.

Sushi restaurants had the highest instances of mislabeling – at a mind-blowing 74% of restaurants! Very fishy indeed. Seafood was mislabeled 38% of the time at non-sushi restaurants, and 18% at grocery stores.

“We would not stand for beef or chicken being swapped for other forms of meat one-third of the time and we should not stand for the same being done with our seafood,” said Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless in a HuffPo interview, which is an interesting way to think about it.

This fish fraud is disturbing, for sure, but there’s so much to love about fish – the omega 3’s and vitamin E and D, its high protein content. So how do you avoid the old fish switcheroo if you’re not going to personally DNA-sample each fish fillet?

Start by asking questions:

- Is it wild or farm raised? (wild is ideal)

- Where are how was it caught?  (line-caught is best)

When possible, buy a fish whole. I know, ew, the eyeballs are totally not something I want to handle either, but seafood fraud is much harder to pull off if the fish is not already filleted and processed.

Lastly, try to buy from the green market and have a convo with those fish-mongers. They will have all the info you need and might have even caught the fish themselves.

What is your reaction to this report? Does this change the way you’ll order fish in the future?

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