Think you know what kind of fish you’re getting when you shop, dine out, or eat sushi? You don’t, according to a new study that says something’s fishy in New York City. According to the report, a majority of grocery stores and restaurants were caught for mislabeling their seafood and sushi and selling customers a cheaper fish substitute–an act which could have major health implications.
Published by the ocean conservation group Oceana, 39% of the fish tested in the study was deemed to be inaccurately labeled. Meaning, instead of that quality piece of salmon or swordfish you thought you were getting, cheap fish was substituted.
In addition, forensic DNA analysis uncovered 58% of 81 New York retailers and eateries sampled incorrectly labeled the seafood they sold. And, nearly all of the sushi tested was “counterfeit.” So who knows what you’ve been eating.
Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana and an author of the study, said in a news release that this was clearly misleading the public:
It’s unacceptable that New York seafood lovers are being duped more than one-third of the time when purchasing certain types of fish.
Not only is it wrong to mislead the public with cheaper varieties of fish, but it’s also potentially harmful to the health of these customers. In one instance, halibut and red snapper was sold as Blueline tilefish–a type of fish that the FDA urges pregnant women, nursing mothers and small children to avoid tilefish because of its high mercury content.
In another sample, 16 out of 17 white tuna samples from local sushi restaurants were really discovered to be escolar–a fish nicknamed the “ex-lax fish” because of its diarrhea effect on many people who consume it.
Other health hazards include allergies to specific types of seafood–all of which leaves the grocery stores, restaurants and consumers at a huge risk. And just because this study was only conducted in New York doesn’t mean these misleading practices are not occurring elsewhere.
Buyer beware. Better to stick with whole pieces of fish from a trusted seafood market where you can easily identify what you’re getting.