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Study: One-third of all seafood sold in the U.S. is mislabeled

Thursday, March 07, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: seafood, mislabeled, Oceana

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(NaturalNews) If you frequent sushi bars every now and again or purchase seafood from the grocery store, chances are you have been a victim of seafood labeling fraud at least once without even knowing it. A new study released by the environmental advocacy and research group Oceana reveals that more than 30 percent of all seafood sold at supermarkets and restaurants in the U.S. is mislabeled, and some of it may even be dangerous.

One of the largest studies of its kind to ever be conducted, the Oceana study looked at more than 1,200 seafood samples collected from 674 retail outlets in 21 states between the years 2010 and 2012. Researchers from the group conducted DNA tests on each of these samples to determine whether or not they were actually the fish types listed on labels, and from this compiled a comprehensive statistical analysis.

What they found is that, on average, 33 percent of all the seafood being sold to consumers is mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. The two most commonly mislabeled fish, it turns out, are red snapper and tuna, with mislabeling rates of 87 percent and 59 percent, respectively. And in some areas, mislabeling rates are far higher, including in Southern California where more than 50 percent of all seafood is mislabeled.

Mislabeled fish is sometimes dangerous fish

It is one thing for vendors to accidentally mislabel fish, or even to deliberately substitute cheaper fish for more expensive fish in order to cut costs and boost profits. But what the research also uncovered is the fact that dangerous fish high in mercury and other pollutants are slipping by undetected, which poses a serious threat to public health.

"We found tilefish, which is on the FDA's 'Do Not Eat List' because of its high mercury content for women of child-bearing age and children, was found in New York City sold as both red snapper and Alaskan halibut," explained Beth Lowell, campaign director of Oceana, to 1010 WINS about the severity of the situation in New York City.

And down in South Florida, similar mislabeling is taking place with king mackerel, which is also on the FDA's "Do Not Eat List" due to high levels of mercury and other pollutants. According to the research, king mackerel is often labeled as grouper in grocery stores throughout South Florida, which puts pregnant mothers and other high-risk individuals in harm's way.

Pennsylvania, California and Texas top list of most mislabeled seafood

Among all the states analyzed as part of the research, Pennsylvania topped out the list as having the most mislabeled seafood. According to the data, 56 percent of all seafood sold in Pennsylvania is mislabeled, and one of the most commonly mislabeled fish in the state is red snapper, which is often just tilapia in disguise.

In second place was Southern California, where 52 percent of all seafood is mislabeled, with the Texas metropolitan areas of Austin and Houston rounding out third place at roughly 50 percent. In Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Washington, D.C.; and New York, New York, every single sushi venue was found to be selling at least one mislabeled fish. And in Austin, every single sushi sample taken was found to be mislabeled.

Of the 120 samples of so-labeled red snapper that were collected nationwide, only seven of them actually turned out to be red snapper. And in New York City, where toxic tilefish was identified, a shocking 94 percent of all so-labeled tuna turned out to be some other type of fish as well. No matter where they looked, researchers found mislabeled seafood, with sushi bars representing the worst culprits.

To view the complete results of the Oceana study, visit: http://oceana.org

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