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Patch Blog: Seafood Fraud Increasing in LA

It's unfortunate that many people in Los Angeles are unaware that the fish they ordered probably isn't the one on their plate.

If you are like the majority of people in California, you love going out with friends and getting that sushi fix you've been craving all week. Eating fish is known to be one of the best ways to obtain your healthy protein consumption. Although, it's unfortunate that many people are unaware that the fish they ordered probably isn't the one on their plate.

The problem ultimately stems from the import of fish into the United States. The path from the boat to your dinner plate is becoming more complex which allows for illegal activity to prosper. Fish fraud is a common trend across the entire United States. In 2009, a study revealed that out of 84% of seafood imported into the US, only 2% was inspected and less than 0.0001% specifically for seafood fraud.

In Los Angeles, 55% of the fish sold is mislabeled (diguising one fish species as another) according to federal guidelines. A study released by Oceana earlier this year concluded that out of 119 fish samples, over half were claiming to be a type of fish they definitely were not. These samples were taken from grocery stores, restaurants, and sushi vendors in the Los Angeles and Orange Counties. 

Fish samples included wild salmon, red snapper, Dover sole, plus white and yellow tuna. This means that when you order certain types of fish in LA, you have a 50/50 chance of actually getting what you ordered. Goodluck with that everyone... yet just another great reason to add to the list of why I don't eat fish. 

Here are some more key findings from the Los Angeles study:

  • 8 of 9 sushi samples labeled as "white tuna" was actual escolar, a fish species known to cause sickness in humans
  • Every single fish sold with the word "snapper" in the label (34 out of 34) was mislabeled
  • Almost 9 out of every 10 sushi samples was mislabeled
  • Fraud was detected in 11 out of 18 different types of fish bought

Fish fraud impacts the business of honest seafood vendors, consumers' pocketbooks, and truthful suppliers. Mislabeling can pose health risk in the form of food allergens, and nasty pathogens or contaminants found in substituted species. Substituting a cheaper/less desirable fish for marketed fish will result inevitability higher profits which is a big incentive for those looking to break the law, but not good for consumers.

Be careful seafood connoisseurs ... you may not always get what you want.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Debra Houston July 26, 2012 at 03:30 AM
wow, I'm going to start asking more questions at the sushi place and the grocery store, thanks for the information Chanel!
Jones Foyer July 26, 2012 at 03:04 PM
"yet just another great reason to add to the list of why I don't eat fish." I'm curious to know the other reasons you wouldn't eat fish. I understand if you don't eat meat at all, but even mis-labeled, it's a pretty healthy way to get protein in your diet. I'm not a fan of snapper so I wouldn't have an issue with that, and if my salmon says "wild" but is actually farm raised, I really don't care.
Chanel Hason July 26, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Welcome Debra!
Chanel Hason July 26, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Growing up, I never liked to eat fish. And then once I started learning more and more about destructive fishing methods, high amounts of wasted by-catch, and overfishing- it only helped me stay far away from putting fish on my dinner plate. There are plenty of other ways to get protein in my diet besides fish. I'm not a vegetarian- I eat meat but not very much of it. Check out this great video about overfishing - https://vimeo.com/43888692 - I think it will help you understand a little bit where I come from on my views about not wanting to participate in the destruction of our fish populations. In about 50 years we will most likely have overfished all of the large fish populations in the ocean. It's a harsh reality that the majority of people don't even acknowledge. Farmed fish are not great either in terms of sustainability and hope for the future fish populations- as you will understand in the video. Well the whole point of mislabeling is not saying something is wild, when it is really farmed- it's claiming that the fish listed on the label, is not the fish in the package (or what shows up on your sushi plate). Most of the fish replacing what you think you're eating is of a lower quality- where vendors profit off the big bucks you spend when you think you're eating the higher quality fish. Hope that all makes sense...
Jones Foyer July 26, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Makes sense! Generally our problems all seem to be related to simply being too many humans on this planet!
Chanel Hason July 26, 2012 at 07:01 PM
That is definitely correct...
Michael Brand July 29, 2012 at 05:20 PM
The same people that wouldn't know if their fish is what is advertised also wouldn't know if their beef/chicken is what is advertised. They also wouldn't know if their vegetables/fruit are actually organic. >order certain types of fish in LA, you have a 50/50 chance >of actually getting what you ordered As someone that has graduated sushi school (ie: trained sushi chef) I find this rather absurd. I can't speak of my time before learning about fish in sushi school about the 50/50 chance, but since I've learned about fish I have NEVER gotten the wrong fish.
Chanel Hason July 30, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Hi Michael- That is true in terms of the beef/chicken/vegetables/fruit. There is plenty of food fraud in our world, which I'm not proud to say. Well I'm glad you would know the difference between certain fish as a trained sushi chef- but the DNA doesn't lie when this survey took place. The facts are real, unfortunately. Sushi restaurants were the highest offender in this study. Hope there's more chefs out there like you who know the difference between the real stuff and the imitation stuff.

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