Oceana Study Reveals One-Third of Seafood Mislabeled In Restaurants and Retail

5:10 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- You may want to pay attention next time you order that red snapper.

Oceana, the largest international organization focusing on ocean conservation, released a study today that contained shocking results: one-third of seafood sold at restaurants and grocery stores is mislabeled. 

For the last two years, the group conducted one of the largest seafood investigations. They went to 21 states and collected more than 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets. They then ran DNA tests on 1,215 samples and 33% of the samples were found to be labeled incorrectly, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

So when consumers purchase a specific type of fish, many times they are really getting another type that is cheaper. Which fish were most commonly mislabeled? 87% of snapper and 59% of tuna were mislabeled. 

In the study, Oceana does not mention which specific retailers and restaurants are mislabeling because they cannot easily identify where in the distribution chain the fraud happens.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA) is one of the various organizations that is taking the issue head on. Their work with the U.S. Department of Justice has resulted in millions of dollars in fines, as well as jail time for offenders who mislabel seafood. 

Yet, Prof. Mahmood Shivji of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., tells The Washington Post, "agencies such as NOAA... are really bogged down."

Oceana, is clear about their recommendations for policy change, saying in their study, "Our findings demonstrate that a comprehensive and transparent traceability system-one that tracks fish from boat to plate-must be established at the national level."