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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Report Reveals Fish Fraud

New study by Oceana reveals that more than half of fish sold is mislabeled.

Which fish is which?

According to a report released by Oceana Tuesday, more than half of the fish sold at Los Angeles grocery stores, sushi bars, and other restaurants is incorrectly labeled.

New study by Oceana reveals that more than half of fish sold is mislabeled (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)
New study by Oceana reveals that more than half of fish sold is mislabeled (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

In May and December of 2011, Oceana gathered tested 119 fish from grocery stores and restaurants in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The non-profit organization that advocates for ocean protection then carried out a DNA test which revealed that 55 percent of fish were mislabeled.

"It is disheartening to know that consumers are not getting what they paid for," said Beth Lowell, campaign director for Oceana. "Seafood fraud is not only ripping off consumers, but it is putting their health at risk and undermining their efforts to eat sustainably."

In their test, Oceana targeted wild salmon, Dover or other regional sole, red snapper, yellowtail and white tuna. Oceana chose these species of fish because they either had been mislabeled in previous studies or they had a significant regional impact.

Here is the breakdown of the story by the numbers:

  • 34 out of 34: Every fish with the word "snapper" in the name was found mislabeled according to federal guidelines.
  • 9 out of 10: Number of sushi samples that were mislabeled.
  • 11 out of 18: Number of types of fish purchased where fraud was detected.
  • 8 out of 9: Number of sushi samples labeled as "white tuna" that were actually escolar, a species that carries a health warning.

"Consumers are being asked to guess what they are eating," said Dr. Kimberly Warner, senior scientist at Oceana. "With such high levels of mislabeling, it is more important than ever for the government to increase inspections and require traceability of our seafood."


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