Something's fishy: 1 in 5 seafood samples fraudulently labeled

| by S.A. Whitehead
Something's fishy: 1 in 5 seafood samples fraudulently labeled

About 20 percent of the 25,000 seafood samples in the worldwide supply chain were labeled incorrectly, according to a new study from ocean advocacy organization, Oceana. The anti-over-fishing group said only one study in the more than 200 published analyses of the global seafood market contained accurate information about the species represented in the supply chain. 

In fact, mislabeled seafood was documented in every step of the seafood supply chain, from original landing of the fish and processing to wholesale purchasing and restaurant and grocery sales, according to a news release about the findings.

"Without tracking all seafood throughout the entire supply chain, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy," said Oceana Senior Campaign Director Beth Lowell.

"The path seafood travels from the fishing boat or farm to our dinner plates is long, complex and non-transparent, rife with opportunities for fraud and mislabeling. American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, how and where it was caught or farmed, and they should be able to trust the information is accurate. The fight against seafood fraud must include all seafood and extend from boat to plate."

Efforts to do just that are set to occur in our nation’s capitol next week, when the Our Ocean Conference convenes there. Additionally, the President’s Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud proposed rule earlier this year to mandate traceability for 13 types of seafood found to be at particular risk across the U.S. supply chain.

Oceana is pushing for all types of U.S.-sold seafood to be included in the final rule. Already the European Union has cracked down on illegal fishing and accountability in seafood supply chains after a flurry of fraud investigations revealed disappointing results. But, Oceana said in a news release that because of its efforts, the EU has seen seafood fraud drop from 23 percent in 2011 to 8 percent last year. 

"The increased traceability and consumer labeling efforts in the EU point us to solutions that really do work to decrease seafood fraud, particularly in sectors and products covered by these legal provisions," said Oceana Senior Scientists and report author, Dr. Kimberly Warner. "The U.S. government should take note and issue the strongest possible final traceability rule. Only full-chain traceability for all species will ensure our seafood is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled."

Other salient findings of Oceana's analysis include: 
•    Studies released nationally in the last two years indicate about 28 percent of U.S. seafood is fraudulently labeled. 
•    More than half (58 percent) of sample substitute seafood was from fish that could make consumers sick. 
•    65 percent of the studies reviewed show seafood was mislabeled to make money. 
•    Replacement fish was usually from Asian catfish, hake and escolar, but represented as more expensive species.
•    Eighty-two percent of 200 Italian grouper, perch and swordfish samples were falsely labeled.
•    Half of the fish substituted were officially known to be species threatened with extinction. 
•    55 percent of “shark” samples in Brazil were actually critically endangered and banned for trade largetooth sawfish,
•    Nearly all (98 percent) of 69 bluefin tuna dishes in Brussels were another species.
•    Half of the fish sold as sole were actually lower-value species, in a German study last year. 
•    A 2015 German study found about half of the samples sold as “sole” to be lower-value fish upon testing.
•    A now-shuttered Santa Monica restaurant and two sushi chefs are charged with buying endangered sei whale that was intentionally shipped as "fatty tuna" to sell as whale meat sushi. 

Topics: Food & Beverage, Food Cost Management, Food Safety, Health & Nutrition

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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