The fish you buy marked "wild-caught" may be farm-raised instead, according to a new study from the conservation group, Oceana, and it also may be mislabeled. The March 14, 2013 news release that names the study is "New Oceana Study Finds 33% of Seafood Mislabeled – News Watch." The article reveals the most important details of the study that show how little control most consumers have about food being the same as what's written on the label.
Check out that article to see the FDA's response to the new report. Check out the March 14, 2013 news article, "Seafood fraud bill author defends legislation | Undercurrent News." seafood fraud bill reintroduced to the House of Representatives this month could affect retailers with the imposition of new traceability.
A seafood fraud bill reintroduced to the House of Representatives this month could affect retailers with the imposition of new traceability requirements for fish, according to Supermarket News. Check out the site, "Seafood Fraud Bill Could Impact Retailers - Supermarket News."
The Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, originally submitted in July 2012, would require information currently collected from US fishermen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, like species, where the fish was caught and what gear was used, to “follow the fish” up through the supply chain until reaching the consumer, with similar documentation required for imported fish.
Can the average consumer trace the source of the fish mislabeling issue?
You may want to learn what you can to do detect seafood mislabeling. Check out the article, "How to Sniff Out Seafood Fraud | Rodale News." Large national chains, such as Whole Foods, had fewer problems with seafood fraud than smaller chains and independent groceries. Big players may have internal auditing procedures designed to prevent problems with mislabeling of seafood. You can check out the sources of their auditing procedures to see whether they're standing up to what they promise.
If you're in a coastal area, visit your local farmer's market or find a local seafood buying club that allows you direct access to the fisherman who knows what he or she caught and can tell you everything about it.
Buy certified. There are a few programs that certify fisheries as sustainable, such as the Marine Stewardship Council, or certify that seafood comes from a particular state or region, such as the Gulf Wild or Rhode Island Trace & Trust. Fishermen and processors who are certified by them operate under more ethical standards and aren't likely to mislead you.
Buy seafood from ethical stores online such as I Love Blue Sea or Vital Choice. And don't order the "fish special" in an eatery because Oceana found that 38 percent of seafood samples purchased at regular restaurants and 74 percent from sushi restaurants were mislabeled.
Looking for a chef who serves you sustainable seafood (that you ordered)? Check out the Fish2Fork certification program. Or when eating out, order land-based or vegetarian protein, suggests the article, "How to Sniff Out Seafood Fraud | Rodale News."
What the conservation group, Oceana is reporting in the news
Also commenting on the new report from Oceana is the March 14, 2014 Sacramento Bee news article, "Integrative Medicine: Food purity" column. The print version headline is "Proof of foods' purity can be elusive," by Sacramento doctors Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden, medical directors of Sutter Downtown Integrative Health program.
The column in numerous ways analyzes the new study, "New Oceana Study Finds 33% of Seafood Mislabeled, posted by Brian Clark Howard of National Geographic News in Ocean Views.The study from Ocean Views reported about mis-identified seafood several times. If you check out the study from the conservation group Oceana, the group released a new report recently that compares food using DNA testing.
Oceana collected fish samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states and used DNA testing to compare those products against U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seafood labeling guidelines. The big picture is the consumer still isn't able to tell whether what's on the label is the same as what's in the package or can.
What the conservation group, Oceana found was that one-third, or 33 percent, of the 1,215 fish samples collected were mislabeled. The results varied by type of seller and region of the country, with some of this alleged mislabeling reaching levels above 90%. The problem for consumers is how to tell whether sustainable seafood is safe and whether what's on the label is the same as what's promised in the packaged.
Oceana reports the following results of the latest study:
Oceana found seafood fraud everywhere it tested, including mislabeling rates of 52 percent in Southern California, 49 percent in Austin and Houston, 48 percent in Boston (including testing by The Boston Globe), 39 percent in New York City, 38 percent in Northern California and South Florida, 36 percent in Denver, 35 percent in Kansas City (MO/KS), 32 percent in Chicago, 26 percent in Washington, D.C., 21 percent in Portland (OR) and 18 percent in Seattle.
Oceana’s study targeted fish with regional significance as well as those found to be frequently mislabeled in previous studies such as red snapper, cod, tuna and wild salmon. Of the most commonly collected types of fish, snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates across the country at 87 and 59 percent, respectively.
Whereas 44 percent of all the retail outlets visited sold mislabeled fish, sushi venues had the worst level of mislabeling at 74 percent, followed by other restaurants at 38 percent and then grocery stores at 18 percent. How can the average consumer even know what fish to choose that's healthiest?
The report also found mislabeling issues:
Mislabeling was found in 27 of the 46 fish types tested (59 percent). Check out the article, "Mislabeled fish: Widespread seafood fraud in the U.S. | Washington."
Only seven of the 120 red snapper samples collected nationwide were actually red snapper. See the article, "Fish Mislabeling Rampant: 87% of Snapper Isn't."
Between one-fifth to more than one-third of the halibut, grouper, cod and Chilean seabass samples were mislabeled. See the news article, "Survey Finds That Fish Are Often Not What Label Says - NYTimes.com."
84 percent of the white tuna samples were actually escolar, a species that can cause serious digestive issues for some individuals who eat more than a few ounces. Check out the article, "Fish fraud: Chicago sushi and other fish mislabeled."
Fish on the FDA’s “Do Not Eat” list for sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children because of their high mercury content were sold to customers who had ordered safer fish. For example, the report found that tilefish sold as red snapper and halibut in New York City, and king mackerel sold as grouper in South Florida.
Cheaper farmed fish were substituted for wild fish. For example, pangasius sold as grouper, sole, and cod, tilapia sold as red snapper, and Atlantic farmed salmon sold as wild or king salmon.
Overfished and vulnerable species were substituted for more sustainable catch. For example, Atlantic halibut sold as Pacific halibut, and speckled hind sold as red grouper.
If some fish and other seafood products were found to be mislabeled, can you imagine what's in your nutritional supplements, at least in theory unless an independent group does a similar study on vitamins, minerals, and other supplements? How would you ever know whether what's on the label is what you're consuming?
In response, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) also released the following statement:
The Food and Drug Administration needs to fulfill its mandate to fight food fraud. That means enforcing laws that are already on the books,” said National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly, according to the March 14, 2013 article, New Oceana Study Finds 33% of Seafood Mislabeled – News Watch. Also compare that article with the site, "Tamar Haspel: Oceana Overstates Mislabeled Fish Problem."
The article explained that, “Calling for new laws to fight fish fraud suggests groups don’t fully understand the issue at hand. If drivers are accused of running a stop sign you don’t simply put up another stop sign, you station a cop on the corner and start cracking down.” Check out the article, "Mislabeled fish: Widespread seafood fraud in the U.S. | Washington." The FDA maintains a consistent and scientifically sound list of acceptable market names for seafood. For retailers and restaurants there should be no question as to what you can legally call any one fish.
Reputable members of the seafood community have been fighting seafood fraud, on their own, since 2007 through the Better Seafood Board (BSB.) See the site, "Fish Fraud."
Consumers are concerned when researchers found that one-third of all samples were mislabeled, some prominently so. In fact, 87 percent of snapper was mislabeled – less than 6 percent of all red snapper samples were actually snapper. Eighty-four percent of white tuna was also mislabeled – instead of tuna, consumers got escolar, a species of fish that can cause serious gastrointestinal distress in some people.
And almost two-thirds of the "wild salmon" turned out to be farmed Atlantic Salmon, according to the March 14, 2013 Sacramento Bee column, "Integrative Medicine: Food purity."
The Sacramento Bee column also noted that farmed salmon is more likely to contain environmental toxins like PCBs and dioxins than wild salmon, an issue that is especially important for pregnant women and young children. Farmed salmon is also lower in omega-3s than wild-caught salmon, and costs considerably less. King mackerel and tilefish, both of which are on the FDA's "do not eat list" because of their high mercury content, were sold as grouper, halibut and red snapper.
Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden's column, "Integrative Medicine: Food purity, also reported that Sushi restaurants were far more likely to sell mislabeled seafood than other restaurants or food markets. In the Oceana study, 74 percent of the sampled fish from sushi establishments was mislabeled.
The buck stops where?
As far as consumers want to know where the buck stops, no one really knows if it begins with the fishing industry or those selling the fish to stores and/or eateries. You could check out the studies reported in the publication, Food Safety News. In 2011, Food Safety News wrote about purity problems with honey sold in the USA, which the Sacramento Bee column, "Integrative Medicine: Food purity" explained in extensive detail. And studies done on extra virgin olive oil also were mentioned by Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden's March 14, 2013 column.
Does your olive oil solidify when refrigerated?
If the extra virgin olive oil doesn't solidify in the refrigerator, chances are it has been diluted with polyunsaturated oils that remain liquid when refrigerated, for example overnight. The FDA doesn't usually test imported olive oil for adulteration.
One possibility could be olive oil cut with cheaper corn oil to sell more. Check out your olive oil to see if it gets solid when refrigerated. If it does, chances are, it's olive oil (unless it has been cut with coconut oil or saturated fats). Olive oil is monosaturated. Oils that never get solid when cold are polyunsaturated. And coconut oil, like lard or butter, is saturated.