Fellow seafood fans, I'm so sorry, but I am about to rain on your grilled salmon-orderin', fish taco-lovin' parade. As if there wasn't enough to worry about already with the oceans being so polluted that most of our fish is filled with heavy metals and totally toxic, now a new study by Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation group, has shown that much of the fish we're eating from grocery stores, restaurants, and sushi venues is NOT what we think. For example, you may be ordering the tilapia or the white tuna ... and getting served escolar, a controversial fish associated with digestive problems. Ugh!
They looked at 1,200 samples of seafood between 2010 and 2012, and after conducting DNA tests, the researchers concluded that 33 percent of all samples were mislabeled according to FDA guidelines. And that's just the tip of the nasty iceberg ...
Apparently, 87 percent of samples labeled "snapper" were mislabeled, while 57 percent of "tuna" samples were also completely misleading. To put it more bluntly, out of 120 "snapper" samples -- only SEVEN were legit! Every sample sold as snapper in Seattle, Portland, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Northern and Southern California was mislabeled. The fish most frequently found to be masquerading as snapper? Rockfish or tilapia. What. A. Total. Bummer.
Overall, the biggest offender in the study were sushi venues -- fish was mislabeled an average of 74 percent (!!!) of the time there. (Even more reason to steer clear, which is such a shame ...) Restaurants were wrong 38 percent of the time and grocery stores 18.
This is a major disappointment to anyone who digs seafood or who thinks of it as a healthy part of a balanced diet. How can it be good for us when we can't even be sure that we're eating what we think we're eating?! And making matters worse, the fish that is usually used as a substitution is often fish carrying health advisories, farmed fish sold as wild, and imperiled, vulnerable, or overfished species sold as sustainable. Gross.
We clearly need some solutions -- STAT. In the meantime, though, all we can do is rely more on grocery stores, ask a lot of questions about the seafood's origin, and double check that what we're buying actually looks like what it's labeled as.
Does this study upset you? Where do you get most of your fish?
Image via Zoe Shuttleworth/Flickr