Two recent investigations reveal that the plate of sushi you order from your favorite restaurant or that market fresh fish you fry up in a pan may not be the exact fish marketed by the retailer. You think you're eating tuna but it's actually escolar.
The Boston Globe and Consumer Reports each recently published results from their independent and separate investigations looking into the accuracy of seafood labeling and the possibility of fraud. The results were very similar and very telling.
First lets take the Boston Globe's findings.
The investigation was part of a special series named "Fishy Business" and went on for five months.
The news organization gathered fish samples from 134 different restaurants, grocery stores and seafood markets throughout the Massachusetts area and yielded astounding results.
After collecting the samples, the Globe had them shipped off to a lab in Canada for DNA testing and found that 48 percent of those samples were mislabeled, less expensive fish passed off as a more expensive variety.
For example: The tests showed that all of the tuna collected was not actually tuna, most of the 23 samples tested were shown to be escolar, a fish "nicknamed the Ex-Lax of fish by some in the industry for the digestion problems it can cause.
"The red snapper on the other hand did fare slightly better, 2 of the 26 samples tested proved to be actual red snapper, the rest, not.
Cape Cod fisherman Eric Hesse was not surprised, quoted in the report Hesse told the Globe..."Mislabeling fish is at a ridiculous level."
"The dealers and restaurants have a vested interest in keeping the illusion going. Every time they can say they are selling fresh, local fish and get away with selling [Pacific] frozen, they don’t have to buy it from us. It kills us."
Disheartening as it may seem, the report does show that all samples of mahi mahi and swordfish tested were labeled correct and gives an A to a few establishments in the study.
Walmart, Trader Joes and BJ’s Wholesale each scored 100% for their labeling practices.
Now lets take a look at the results from the Consumer Reports investigation.
Slightly larger and spread out over three states ( New York, New Jersey and Connecticut ) the Consumer Reports results may leave some seafood lovers breathing a little bit easier, although not by much.
The magazine had 190 fish samples tested that they had collected throughout the Tri-State area and found that approximately 20 percent were mislabeled or misidentified by employees.
"Only four of the 14 types of fish we bought—Chilean sea bass, coho salmon, and bluefin and ahi tuna—were always identified correctly," sites the report.
For all you "lemon sole" and "red snapper fans," beware. The investigators say that "all 10 of the "lemon soles" and 12 of the 22 "red snappers" we bought weren't the claimed species."
These two investigations are merely a snapshot of the problem as a whole, for good or for bad but with Americans spending over $80 billion a year on seafood, ( I think ) we should get what we pay for.