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Fishy Fraud In Big Apple

Fishy Fraud In Big Apple
12/12/2012 12:55 AM ET

The U.S. ranks third in fish consumption next to China and Japan. More than 90% of the fish consumed in the nation is imported according to reports. Seafood fraud, which includes false information accompanying seafood, mislabeling and short weighting or swapping out one species of fish for another, occurs almost everywhere in the country, and Big Apple is no exception.

An advocacy group called Oceana, which focused its investigation this year on seafood mislabeling in the New York City area, has revealed some startling findings in its report on seafood fraud.

As part of the investigation, Oceana staff and supporters collected 142 samples from 81 retail outlets from the New York City area, mainly from Manhattan, between June and September of 2012. Of the 142 samples, 89 were from grocery stores, 28 from restaurants and 25 from sushi venues.

According to the report released by Oceana, forensic DNA analysis of the fish samples revealed that 56 of 142 samples were mislabeled resulting in the overall seafood fraud rate of 39 percent in New York City.

In the U.S., if the seafood is sold without using the acceptable market name as outlined in the FDA Seafood List, it is considered as mislabeled. This mislabeling results in a lot of confusion for consumers and they don't get what they pay for.

The rate of seafood mislabeling was 76 percent in sushi bars while it was 39 percent in restaurants and 29 percent in grocery stores.

Overall, the rate of fraud was significantly higher in small markets - 40%, compared to national chain grocery stores' 12%, says the report.

According to the report, tuna was the most mislabeled fish - with 94 percent of the "white tuna" sampled being not tuna at all, but escolar, a snake mackerel that has a toxin which causes acute gastrointestinal problems.

Another disturbing finding is that tilefish - one of four species on FDA's do-not-eat list for women who are or might become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children because of its high mercury levels, was substituted for red snapper and halibut in a small market.

The report stresses that full traceability of the seafood supply chain - giving information about the seafood purchased, including where, when and how it was caught, is needed to combat seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the U.S. market.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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