There is a 20% Chance That Your Local Food Spots are Selling Mislabeled Seafood Products

Scientist sampling fish (
Oceana, an ocean conservation group, released a study finding that 1 in 5 seafood products are mislabeled all throughout the seafood industry. To conduct this study, Oceana first began by investigating previous seafood fraud studies from scholarly journals and public government documents. Next, the group took 25,000 samples of seafood from 55 countries all around the globe to test if the fish were actually what they were claimed to be. The study found that the worldwide mislabeling rate is at a record high of 34%.

Anyone involved in the seafood selling business can be guilty of mislabeling

80% of the 25,000 samples were taken from the retail level of the seafood selling chain. The other 20% of the samples were taken from seafood packaging and processing plants. Mislabeling was found at both the retail and distributive levels, showing that anyone who is involved in the seafood business is capable of mislabeling.

Since mislabeling occurs at every single level of the seafood supply chain, it is hard to tell whether grocery stores and restaurants are the ones mislabeling the seafood products, or if the companies selling the products to grocery stores and restaurants are falsely labeling. It is hard to determine who is to blame because it varies in every single case.

Companies often sell cheaper fish in the place of popular fish because they can save money by spending less resources on cheaper fish, meet market demands, and avoid overfishing while following government regulations

Endangerment levels for different types of tuna
Oceana found that 65% of false labeling was due to a clear need for money and economic gain. Companies can save tons of money by using their resources to catch a ton of cheaper fish at one time, rather than wasting resources and catching popular fish little by little.

The human race has been fishing for hundreds of years, and all of that fishing is finally catching up to us. Human demand for seafood is clearly higher than what the oceans can provide. Popular fish, such as certain types of cod and tuna, are going onto the endangered species list.

There are many government regulations set on fish that could possibly be placed on the endangered species list, which in turn puts limitations on fishermen and how much fish they can catch.

The combination of the pressure to meet high market demands and follow government regulations leads to seafood fraud. Importers often resort to using cheaper, unhealthier fish that are easier to find so that they can meet the high market demand for popular fish.

The New York Times interviewed Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman from the National Fisheries Institute, to see his reaction on Oceana's finding. Gibbons believes that the study is not 100% accurate because it is not representative of all seafood sales around the globe. He believes that the nature of going out and selectively looking for mislabeled seafood products rigs the experiment. While someone in the seafood industry may not be convinced by Oceana's study, common, everyday seafood buyers might be.

The seafood being used in place of the product on the label can be extremely dangerous to human health

Health effects of mercury on humans
Oceana found that 58% of the falsely labeled food can be harmful to human health. According to the map above, sushi restaurants in New York and Los Angeles often serve escolar, a fish that causes digestive problems, to customers and disguise it as white tuna. There were fifty specific cases of escolar being sold as tuna in the United States, and it is extremely common in Australia.

Oceana found that shark was often sold in the place of tuna and sea bass. Shark has very high-mercury levels, which can be extremely harmful to the nervous system. Mercury can also have detrimental effects on pregnant women and their fetuses.

Dangerous chemicals and toxins can even be found in mislabeled products. A more extreme example is ciguatera, a toxin found in the polluted water near coral reefs. Ciguatera can cause serious health problems such as not being able to tell the difference between hot and cold temperatures and having a tingling feeling.

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