Asian catfish hiding in your grouper sandwich. Escolar sold in your “white tuna” sushi roll. By now, most consumers know they can’t always trust what’s on their dinner plate, especially when it comes to seafood. But how often do you actually get to test your own knowledge of what you’re eating? Now is your chance to do just that, as Oceana teams up with the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. for an interactive fine-dining experience as part of their Fresh Thoughts Dining Series.
The Massachusetts Legislature is currently considering three bills relating to seafood mislabeling, following in the footsteps of Washington state, which just last month enacted its own legislation on seafood mislabeling. I traveled to Boston earlier this week to testify before the Joint Committee on Public Health in support of these bills, which are important for giving consumers fuller and more accurate information about the seafood they buy.
Earlier this week, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed into law House Bill 1200 (HB 1200), which will begin to tackle seafood fraud throughout the state. Seafood fraud switches out the fish consumers intend to purchase with fish that is cheaper, less sustainable, or even dangerous. Oceana’s recent seafood fraud report found that 18 percent of fish sampled and sold in Seattle, WA, was mislabeled. And Washington’s results were better than most – our testing showed that fully one-third of seafood in restaurants and grocery stores throughout the country is mislabeled. Among specific cities and regions of the country, the numbers get even worse: 38 percent of Miami samples were mislabeled, 39 percent of New York City samples were mislabeled, and an incredible 52 percent of samples we tested in Southern California were not what they were labeled.
Every spring, the Nautica South Beach Triathlon gives us reason to smile. There’s the energetic crowds, the celebrity entrants, and the warm-but-not-too-brutally-hot April weather on Miami Beach. This year, however, in Oceana’s 5th year participating through our partnership with Nautica, our grins got even bigger as we set a pair of performance records where it matters most: raising funds for our conservation work.
Team Oceana, comprised of seven passionate ocean advocates, nearly doubled its previous fundraising record at the race, raising $7,171, while our partners at Nautica raised another $20,000 for Oceana by donating 100% of proceeds generated from their beachside shop. That’s $27,000 raised in one weekend, which will go a long way toward improving the condition of the oceans around South Florida, the country, and the world
Earlier this year Oceana made a splash with its National Seafood Fraud Report, a landmark investigation which found that a third of the seafood it tested nationwide had been mislabeled. While we encourage you to read the report in full, for those of you on the go this infographic (click to enlarge) boils it down to its most shocking findings.
Learn more about seafood fraud.
Right now on the New York Times TimesCast Oceana senior scientist Kimberly Warner is discussing Oceana's landmark National Seafood Fraud Report issued today. You can watch that interview above and read the Times' take on this sweeping investigation.
The report found that one third of the seafood that was DNA tested nationwide, from 1,215 fish samples in 21 states, was mislabeled.
Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell dropped by the set of Dr. Oz yesterday to talk seafood fraud with the doc in a segment about mislabeled foods.
In December Oceana released its seafood fraud report for New York City which found that 39 percent of seafood tested in the area, was something other than what was advertised on the menu. The report mirrored other Oceana reports which found that seafood fraud was a widespread problem in other metropolitan areas like Boston, Los Angeles and Miami.
Click the links below for parts 2 and 3 of Beth's appearance.
Massachusetts legislators are taking a stand against seafood fraud, which includes mislabeling or substituting one type of fish for another that is cheaper, less desirable or more readily available, usually for financial gain. Oceana commends the Massachusetts Legislature for taking up the bill (H.D. 3189) and sees it as a major step toward combating the growing problem of seafood fraud.
How much do you know about seafood fraud? Take this quiz to find out!
Oceana’s initial report, which was also covered in the Times, included a number of eyebrow-raising findings. After analyzing 142 samples, Oceana found that 56 of them, or 39 percent tested in New York City, were something other than what was advertised on the menu.
It also found that 100 percent of sushi restaurants tested in the area sold mislabeled fish, that 94 percent of “white tuna” was, in fact, escolar (a fish which can cause gastrointestinal problems in some diners), and that 79 percent of red snapper was mislabeled, in one instance being switched with tilefish, which is on the FDA’s do not eat list because of its high mercury content.
Chef Tom Colicchio was not shocked by this latest round of fraud uncovered by Oceana. “This has been going on for as long as I’ve been cooking,” he says in the article. 500 chefs, from Eric Ripert to Mario Batali have signed a letter calling on Congress to end to seafood mislabeling.
The article suggests that diners can arm themselves with a baseline of seafood-related knowledge to fend off fraudulent menu items:
“If a restaurant claims to have fresh Maine diver scallops in July, it helps to know that the tightly regulated bivalves can be harvested only from December to March. (And that they are rarely taken from the sea by actual divers.) Fresh wild Alaska salmon should not be on plates in January.”
The report focused on fish that was purchased in the New York City area and subjected to DNA testing. That testing revealed, among other startling findings, that 79 percent of red snapper served in New York City restaurants and grocery stores was replaced with less expensive fish, like tilefish. The FDA warns pregnant women and young children to avoid tilefish altogether because of its high mercury content.
Similarly 94% of white tuna served at sushi restaurants was in fact escolar, a fish whose high levels of wax esthers can potentially cause diarrhea in diners.
Meanwhile the New York Times detailed Oceana's report in its Tuesday Science section, in the article "Tests Say Mislabeled Fish is a Widespread Problem":
The findings are broadly similar to those of studies Oceana has conducted in Los Angeles, Boston and Miami, where 55, 48 and 31 percent of samples, respectively, were mislabeled.
One finding that surprised the research team was that national chain supermarkets offered less mislabeled seafood than regional chains or small specialty markets. High prices were no guarantee of accurate labeling: one restaurant in the highest price range offered red snapper on its menu but, according to Oceana, was serving up lowly tilapia.
Learn more about seafood fraud and what Oceana is doing to fight it.