Food & Alcohol

Published on February 25th, 2013

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A Fish by any Other Name Is a Problem

If you are hankering for a good piece of snapper or tuna, you might want to make sure you are getting the real deal.

One third of fish analyzed by Oceana, a nonprofit conservation group, were not labeled according to FDA guidelines. Snapper and tuna had the highest rates of mislabeling, according to the study released by the group Feb. 21.

Tilapia was substituted for red snapper. King mackerel? That was sold as grouper, and white tuna was really escolar, according to the study.

In fact, of the 1,215 seafood samples collected by the advocacy group from 674 retail outlets in 21 states, 33 percent were not the type of fish that their labels claimed they were. Snapper had a mislabeling rate of 87 percent and tuna of 59 percent.

Sushi venues ranked highest in mislabeling, followed by restaurants and then grocery stores, according to the study, which tested samples collected from 2010 to 2012.

The mislabeling included fish that were swapped out for species that carry health advisories, cheaper fish sold as wild fish, and imperiled species sold as sustainable catches.

An investigation by the Boston Globe in 2011 and 2012, which also found that cheaper fish were being substituted for other species in some restaurants surveyed in Massachusetts, prompted a bill now under review by legislators that would allow the state to fine businesses selling mislabeled fish.

Oceana says it study shows the need for a comprehensive system that will track fish from boat to plate.

“Our government,’’ says Oceana, “has a responsibility to provide more information about the fish sold in the U.S.’’

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