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Media Resources --Seafood Substitutions & Fraud

Article on Oceana Study

IT'S THE OLD BAIT-AND-SWITCH

Unethical distributors and restaurants can fool the unknowing customer by substituting cheaper fish
for the more expensive.

Here are some possible substitutions for pricier fish:

Grouper: catfish, banga, basa, ponga, pollock, swai
Red snapper: tilapia
White tuna: escolar (which can cause diarrhea -Known as the Ex-Lax Fish)
Fried scallops: imitation scallops (minced fish meat seasoned with scallop flavor)
Crab meat: imitation crab, sometimes listed as krab (minced fish given the color and texture of crab).

Source: Miami Herald

Information on restaurants cited by state inspectors for food misrepresentation can be found online.

Advocacy group allleges much "wild" salmon is mislabeled

October 30 2016

Conservationist group Oceana has issued a report purportedly finding that 43 percent of salmon samples purchased from U.S. restaurants and grocery stores were mislabeled. As a follow-up to a larger study, Oceana researchers DNA tested 82 salmon samples and compared them to the names under which restaurants and grocers sold them. Of the 32 salmon samples sold as "wild salmon," the tests indicated 69 percent were farmed; "Alaskan" or "Pacific" salmon was also likely to be mislabeled, with five of the nine samples discovered to be farmed Atlantic salmon. Large grocery stores were most likely to advertise their products correctly, while restaurants mislabeled 67 percent of fish offerings. The report further notes that salmon sold out-of-season was much more likely to be mislabeled.

“The federal government should provide consumers with assurances that the seafood they purchase is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled,” Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana, said in an October 28, 2016, press release. “Traceability needs to be required for all seafood to ensure important information about which species it is, whether it was farmed or wild caught, and how and where it was caught follows all seafood from boat (or farm) to plate. Providing consumers with more information about their seafood allows them to make more informed decisions, whether it is for health, economic or environmental reasons.”

Read more at Jacksonville.com:

Pollutants in Water Accumulate in Fatty Fish

Many toxic pollutants cannot be detected in water; the levels are below laboratory detection limits. Thus, health hazards from pollutants may not be apparent if only the water is analyzed. Bioaccumulation of pollutants in fish tissue presents the real threat.

Pollutants accumulate mostly in fatty tissues. Fatty fish, such as carp, bluefish, salmon and catfish, pose the greatest risk when eaten frequently. Laboratory analysis of tissues provides the best way to test for pollutants in fish. Two sampling techniques, one where the fish remain alive, are employed for these tests.

Consumer Reports Fish Substitution Study

The following table shows the results of research done by and published by Consumer Reports Magazine, December 2011. Their statement about how the testing was done precedes the table. Visit ConsumerReports.org.

An outside lab tested our fish samples using DNA bar coding, a recently developed, standardized way of identifying species. It uses a short DNA sequence that can be taken from raw, cooked, pickled, or smoked fish and compares it with the DNA of hundreds of thousands of specimens in newly available public databases. Searching a database is sort of like using Google, except you search with the letters of a DNA sequence instead of a word. So far, DNA bar coding has been used mostly by research organizations such as universities and museums.

Our project started with two staffers who served as mystery shoppers, buying a wide variety of fish from 55 stores and restaurants in fall 2010. The stores comprised 19 supermarkets, 13 fish markets, 12 gourmet and natural specialty stores, six restaurants, and five big-box stores.

An outside lab tested our fish samples using DNA bar coding, a recently developed, standardized way of identifying species. It uses a short DNA sequence that can be taken from raw, cooked, pickled, or smoked fish and compares it with the DNA of hundreds of thousands of specimens in newly available public databases. Searching a database is sort of like using Google, except you search with the letters of a DNA sequence instead of a word. So far, DNA bar coding has been used mostly by research organizations such as universities and museums.

Our project started with two staffers who served as mystery shoppers, buying a wide variety of fish from 55 stores and restaurants in fall 2010. The stores comprised 19 supermarkets, 13 fish markets, 12 gourmet and natural specialty stores, six restaurants, and five big-box stores.

We tested three samples or fewer of each type of fish from any store or restaurant, so we can't draw conclusions about the practices of chains or even individual retailers. And we bought all samples near the Consumer Reports headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y.: Results might differ if you order the same fish in your local market or restaurant.

In the stores Our shoppers observed seafood display counters, placards, and menus, and asked questions. They noted each fish's country of origin and recorded whether it was labeled as wild or farmed and whether the label included sustainability claims. They noted prices, which ranged from $1.99 to $64.99 per pound. When buying whole fish, they asked the person behind the counter to cut it into fillets. "Many of the employees were not happy about doing this, especially with the cheaper fish," one of our shoppers says. "We received a lot of strange looks." At restaurants, the shoppers bought take-out orders of cooked seafood.

The shoppers placed the fish in refrigerated containers, froze them at our headquarters, then shipped them overnight to the lab. Which fish were switched? In descending order of percentage mislabeled, by species or group.

We tested three samples or fewer of each type of fish from any store or restaurant, so we can't draw conclusions about the practices of chains or even individual retailers. And we bought all samples near the Consumer Reports headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y.: Results might differ if you order the same fish in your local market or restaurant.

In the stores Our shoppers observed seafood display counters, placards, and menus, and asked questions. They noted each fish's country of origin and recorded whether it was labeled as wild or farmed and whether the label included sustainability claims. They noted prices, which ranged from $1.99 to $64.99 per pound. When buying whole fish, they asked the person behind the counter to cut it into fillets. "Many of the employees were not happy about doing this, especially with the cheaper fish," one of our shoppers says. "We received a lot of strange looks." At restaurants, the shoppers bought take-out orders of cooked seafood.

The shoppers placed the fish in refrigerated containers, froze them at our headquarters, then shipped them overnight to the lab. Which fish were switched? In descending order of percentage mislabeled, by species or group.

Table of Fish Substitutions

Fish DNA example image


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