Fish Fraud

  • January 28, 2020

Fish have always been an important part of our meals, keeping us healthy. Its usage is increasing in a variety of different culinary styles, with dozens of sushi joints popping up in every town. However, it’s recently been discovered that the fish we’re consuming is often mislabeled as being higher quality than it actually is. 

A study by Oceana revealed that seafood can be mislabeled as often as 26 to 87 percent of the time for lower-quality substitutes that are cheaper and less desirable. Researchers also found that one in three seafood samples were mislabeled. This illegal substitution of fish can have serious consequences for the health of the people eating it and can also damage the wellbeing of the ocean with overfishing. This problem is especially relevant in Southern California with 52% mislabeling which is 20 percent higher than the average rate of mislabeling in the U.S. 

Of the various fish types, sea bass and tuna were very frequently mislabeled as Antarctic toothfish and Escolar. From the white tuna samples, 84% were found to actually be Escolar, which can cause serious digestive issues to the people eating it. 

“The consumer thinks that they’re getting a high-priced fish and instead they’re getting the cheaper alternative … they’re being ripped off,” said Beth Lowell, Oceana’s deputy vice president.

Seafood fraud occurs so commonly due to the fact that businesses want to profit from selling a cheap fish for a higher price by mislabeling it. Since there can be a low supply of certain fish due to overfishing, businesses need to fill orders and the only way to do so is through fraud. 

Although this news may be concerning, there are ways to have a better chance at knowing what you’re eating. Oceana suggests asking your server where the fish was caught to see their level of information about the fish and the National Fishery Institute suggests inquiring whether or not the establishment is a part of the Better Seafood Board as members of the board must correctly label their products. Considering the especially high rate of mislabeling in our area, with a Loyola Marymount study finding that 47% of sushi tested in Los Angeles was mislabeled, it is important we try to stay conscious of what we are eating.

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