Fish Mislabeling Rampant: 87% of Snapper Isn't

A third of fish aren't labeled correctly; worst offenders are sushi joints

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 21, 2013 7:20 AM CST | Updated Feb 21, 2013 7:46 AM CST

(Newser) – OK, it's not horse meat, but fish mislabeling is rampant across the US, a 20-state study finds. Up to a third of restaurant and grocery-store seafood is labeled incorrectly, the Washington Post reports. Looking at specific varieties, the figures get even starker: Some 94% of so-called tuna in New York wasn't, the New York Times reports, while 87% of snapper is mislabeled. “Even a relatively educated consumer couldn’t look at a whole fish and say, ‘I’m sure that’s a red snapper and not lane snapper,’ ” says the study's lead author. The study follows up on a smaller one released in December by activist group Oceana.

Overall, Southern California had the worst labeling record, with 52% of its fish marked wrong. And the worst venue for wrong labels: sushi restaurants, the study found, at a 95% rate. In many cases, sushi joints called escolar—or albacore canned tuna—"white tuna." Too much of it can cause diarrhea. Odds for consumers are best at grocery stores, where 27% of the products are mislabeled. In many cases, cheaper fish took the place of more expensive ones. Less than 1% of seafood sold in the US undergoes FDA testing for fraud, says a 2009 report.

Fresh red snapper is iced and ready for sale in Bon Secour, Ala., Wednesday, May 16, 2012.   (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
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