Oceana, an international conservation organization, conducted a multi-state investigation between 2010 and 2012, analyzing over 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in the United States. What they found was that seafood is regularly mislabeled and with potentially hazardous consequences.
For instance, 84 percent of white tuna samples are actually escolar, a species of fish that has been known to cause digestive issues. Escolar has been banned in Japan since 1977 because the government considers it toxic. In Southern California, 52 percent of seafood was mislabeled. In Austin, Texas, every sushi sample was mislabeled. In South Florida, groupers actually turned out to be King Mackerel, a fish on the FDA’s DO NOT EAT list due to its high mercury content.
The author of the Oceana report, Dr. Kimberly Warner, calls some of these fish substitutions “disturbing.” But the real issue, as she told The Huffington Post, was that “[a]part from being cheated, many consumers are being denied the right to choose fish wisely based on health or conservation concerns.”
Oceana is calling on federal and state governments to create better inspection and testing standards and enforce existing laws to their full extent. The United States is the second largest consumer of seafood in the world, after China, and yet less than one percent of its seafood is tested for fraud.
This problem is not new. Ninety-one percent of America’s seafood is imported and, in 2012, 500 chefs across America petitioned the government to trace fish “from boat to plate.” The government has yet to take any decisive action.