Research conduced by the ocean conservation group, Oceana, has found frequent mislabeling of fish on menus and in grocery stores throughout New York City.
Mirroring similar findings in studies conducted by Oceana in Los Angeles, Boston and Miami, the data, done by DNA testing, noted 39 percent of close to 150 samples from more than 80 venues were mislabeled, reports the New York Times, “Among the 142 samples collected, tuna and snapper were the most commonly mislabeled fishes, the Oceana study said. Instances of mislabeling were found in samples from all 16 sushi restaurants from which tested fish was obtained.”
Tilapia and tilefish were among 13 species of fish routinely mislabeled as red snapper. The Times reports that tilefish is a high mercury contamination risk fish, which the FDA advises pregnant or nursing women as well as small children to avoid.
A startling 94 percent of white tuna sampled was actually found to not be tuna but snake mackeral, which has been known to cause severe cases of diarrhea after ingesting just a few ounces, says the Times.
Often, the substitutions used cheaper fish in place of more expensive species listed on menus. Sometimes, though, the researchers found threatened fish species whose numbers have been greatly depleted as a result of overfishing.
According to the Times, the mislabeling may not be directly the fault of restaurants or supermarkets, but a systemic problem with the fishing industry: “Seafood is increasingly sold on a global market with a long and complicated supply chain. Experts suggest that much of the mislabeling occurs at sea or where distributors cut up a fish hundreds to thousands of miles away, making a filet’s provenance hard to verify,” and most chefs are not skilled enough to tell the difference once a fish is in filet form.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger