September 21, 2018

Oceana Reports Seafood Fraud Costs Consumers Money and Health

When you buy grouper fillets at your grocery store, are you really getting what you’re paying for? A new study by Oceana confirms that you may not be, and that the cost of seafood fraud is mounting. On average, consumers are being cheated out of hundreds of dollars a year because cheaper fish species are being exchanged for more expensive types.

Seafood AssortmentFor instance, if you want to buy grouper but the fish you are buying is actually tilapia, you are spending more than $4.00 more a pound. In a restaurant, that cost difference jumps to $12.00. You think you are eating a high quality fish, but you’re getting a cheaper species worth half the price you’re paying.

Oceana senior scientist Margot Stiles said in a statement, “swapping a lower cost fish for a higher value one is like ordering a filet mignon and getting a hamburger instead. If a consumer eats mislabeled fish even just once a week, they could be losing up to hundreds of dollars every year due to seafood fraud.”

In addition, seafood fraud can threaten your health. For instance, a woman in Chicago was sickened when she purchased what she thought was monkfish, but it was actually toxic pufferfish imported from China. Escolar, or oilfish, can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, but it’s often mislabeled as white tuna, butterfish, cod, and orange roughy.

The seafood supply chain is complicated and convoluted. Much of the seafood we eat in the U.S. is imported, making many stops before you eat it. Each stop offers opportunity for fraud. Information from retailers “may be misleading, inconsistent, or inaccurate,” according to the study.┬áThe only way to solve this problem is to require traceability of the supply chain, which means tracking every single fish from the boat to the plate.

Legislation targeting seafood fraud was introduced to Congress in March. The Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE) Act requires traceability for all seafood sold in this country. You can sign Oceana’s letter urging Congress to pass this bill.

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