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.