One-third of the seafood consumed in the US is mislabelled, a fishy practice that can pose serious health risks, according to a study published Thursday by the non-profit Oceana.
The study reached its conclusions by testing the DNA of more than 1 200 seafood samples over a period of two years. It showed high levels of fraud when it comes to buying fish: the study found that 87% of snapper and 59% of tuna products actually contained types of fish other than what the label said.
Dr Kimberly Warner, author of the report and senior scientist at Oceana, said the findings were troubling.
How consumers choose their fish
"Apart from being cheated, many consumers can't choose their fish wisely based on conservation or health concerns," said Warner in a video produced by Oceana, the largest international organisation focusing on ocean conservation.
In some cases, she said, white tuna used in sushi was substituted with escolar, a type of fish that can actually lead to serious digestive problems if consumed in large portions.
Other fish known to have high levels of mercury are used as substitutes, putting women of childbearing age and children in danger.
US Representative Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said the rampant fraud hurts consumers and fish producers economically.
Seafood fraud globally
"Seafood fraud is an epidemic, and it is a fraud on the consumer," Markey said. "Fishermen who play by the rules are also being ripped off by the bogus bass and the shady shrimp that are being marketed as the real deal."
As Massachusetts is a major fish producer in the US, Markey said the practice, which often involves fraudulent fish imported from abroad, must stop.
Oceana called on the federal government to establish stricter guidelines for tracking seafood "from boat to plate," to increase inspection of fish products for mislabeling and to better enforce existing laws on fraud.Author: Emoke Bebiak