Fish fraud: Naughty Business of the Week

May 31, 2011|By Liz F. Kay

Here are more factors to consider the next time you buy fish at a store or order it at a restaurant.

Seafood can be a great choice for health reasons, and it's tasty to boot. But overfishing threatens some fish stocks and contaminents that accumulate in some species requires us to limit how much we can eat -- particularly women and young children.

But even following the "Super Green" recommendations from the Monteray Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program won't help you if the fish is mislabeled in the seafood case --- replaced with options that are cheaper or more readily available.

Oceana, an ocean advocacy group, has launched a campaign to educate consumers about seafood fraud. DNA testing of fish fillets served in 50 cities over a four-year period indicated that about half did not match the species advertised on the menu.

Customers are definitely at a disadvantage, particularly when buying fish that's already been fileted, since much of the identifying characteristics will have been discarded. And how can one determine the difference between farmed and wild salmon just by looking at them?

Their efforts include tips for consumers buying seafood, including questions to ask as well as a list of commonly mislabeled seafood --- subbing tilapia for red snapper or grouper, for example.

The group also encourages people to contact their elected officials to press for stronger regulation of these industries. According to Oceana, "while 84 percent of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported, only two percent is currently inspected and less than 0.001 percent specifically for fraud."



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