Seafood fraud is at an all time high. Last week, we talked to Larry Olmstead about how a fish like escolar slips into our diets and how impossible it is to get real red snapper. And yet… we continue to down sushi like it’s actually going out of style (and it will, if the style is “existing”). The newest seafood report released by Oceana confirms that nearly 20 percent of the time whatever fish you think you’re eating isn’t that at all.
Counterfeit fish is a slippery business (sorry, not sorry). Because of the fetching dollar amount and the indistinguishable differences of the meat to consumers, it’s no wonder companies and restaurants all over the world are getting away with it. In fact they reported that, “Seafood fraud has been exposed… in 55 countries and on every continent besides Antarctica.”
Aside from being misled, this opens the door to all sorts of health risks and parasites with names we can’t even try to pronounce. They identified a mislabeling or species substitution of seafood at every level of the process, focusing mainly on grocery stores, restaurants, and those areas directly in contact with the consumer. Nearly one in every five samples tested was mislabeled.
A few lowlights from the report:
- Two sushi chefs in Santa Monica were found selling endangered whale meat as “fatty tuna.”
- In Brazil, 55 percent of shark meat tested wasn’t shark.
- 98 percent of the bluefin tuna tested in Brussels wasn’t actually bluefin.
- 10 of 27 caviar samples wasn’t what it claimed to be. Three of the samples had no animal DNA at all.
Because it isn’t always illegal to mislead your customers, Oceana is pushing for a revision of our seafood labeling laws in the United States as a means to create a transparent system in which all are both responsible and accountable. For example, 66 different species are legally sold as grouper in the United States — loopholes like this ensure that we never actually know what we’re getting when we sit down to dine.