Tests on seafood sold at Los Angeles-area sushi bars, other restaurants, and grocery stores show that more than half is incorrectly labeled, a nonprofit organization that advocates for ocean protection.
"It is disheartening to know that consumers are not getting wait they pay for," said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana, which is based in Washington, D.C. "Seafood fraud is not only ripping off consumers, but it is putting their health at risk and undermining their efforts to eat sustainably."
DNA testing carried out by Oceana confirms that 55 percent of the seafood sampled was mislabeled, according to an Oceana statement.
In May and December of 2011, Oceana staff and supporters collected 119 seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues in Los Angeles and Orange counties, the group said.
The targeted species included those that were found to be mislabeled in previous studies as well as those with regional significance, such as wild salmon, Dover or other regional soles, red snapper, yellowtail and white tuna, the statement said.
Among the report's other key findings:
- Fraud was detected in 11 out of 18 different types of fish purchased;
- Every fish sold with the word "snapper" in the label (34 out of 34) was mislabeled, according to federal guidelines;
- Nearly nine out of every 10 sushi samples was mislabeled;
- Eight out of nine sushi samples labeled as "white tuna" 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."