May 28, 2020

Oceana Reports Seafood Fraud in New York City, Elsewhere, an international organization focused on ocean conservation, has released a study that shows widespread seafood fraud in New York City and elsewhere around the country. Fraud can include exchanging a lower quality fish for a more desirable species, short weighting, and false information about the product.

In fact, they state that everywhere seafood is tested, fraud is found. Mislabeling was found in 48% of seafood products sold in Boston, in 55% of products sold in Los Angeles, and in 31% of seafood sold in Miami. In New York City, 39% of the 142 seafood samples collected and DNA tested from grocery stores, sushi venus, and restaurants were mislabeled, violating FDA guidelines.

Dr. Kimberly Warner, report author and senior scientist at Oceana, said in a statement, “it’s unacceptable that New York seafood lovers are being duped more than one-third of the time when purchasing certain types of fish. Not only are New Yorkers being cheated when buying fraudulent fish, but those wanting to choose their seafood wisely for health, religious, or conservation concerns are being seriously misled.”

The report also found that 58% of the retail outlets samples sold mislabeled fish. Smaller markets had a much higher rate of fraud than national chain stores. And 100% of the 16 sushi venus tested sold mislabeled fish. For example, in one small market, tilefish was substituted for red snapper and halibut. Tilefish is on the FDA do-not-eat list because of its high mercury content. And 94% of the product labeled “white tuna” was not tuna at all, but escolar, a snack mackerel that contains toxins. Thirteen different types of fish were sold as “red snapper”, but they were actually tilapia, white bass, tilefish, ocean perch, porgy, and less valuable snapper species.

Oceana, along with Representatives Edward Market (D-MA), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Walter Jones (R-NC) will reintroduce the Safety in Fraud and Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE) Act, which would require full traceability for any seafood sold in the country.

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