Investigators found out that many of the fish sold in Canadian supermarkets are mislabeled seafood, with estimates placing the fraud to be affecting approximately half of the seafood sold in Canadian stores.
The seafood fraud is more than just being charged more for a premium fish and getting a cheaper variety. In some cases, the mislabeling may also pose as a health risk such as in the case of white tuna being switched with escolar, a type of fish that can cause stomach problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.
In a study conducted by advocacy group Oceana Canada, about half turned out to be mislabeled, seafood fraud campaigner shared Julia Levin. This was from a sample of 382 composed of sole, bass, snapper, and other fish from 177 restaurants and retailers in 5 Canadian cities. Ontario-based lab Tru-ID used DNA to identify the type of fish in the samples and found that 44% were not what was indicated in the label.
The study found that 100% of the samples for butterfish, yellowtail, and snapper were labeled incorrectly while 30% of the samples for sole, halibut, and tuna were incorrectly labeled as well. The fish were usually replaced with Japanese amberjack, escolar, or tilapia as identified by DNA. 52% of the samples from restaurants were mislabeled and 22% of those from markets and groceries turned out to be mislabeled as well.
The above report is currently being reviewed by the CFIA, the authority responsible for monitoring food fraud in Canada and mitigating food safety risks. It is to be noted that previous studies had the same results.
Fishmonger Hana Nelson of Afishionado says that she would like to believe that the rampant mislabeling issue wasn’t intentional and was just a result of human error.
Supply and Demand Fuels Wrongful Practice
Seafood is often mislabeled because of the many opportunities for mislabeling that are present from when the fish are caught, processed, and sent to retailers. This means that the stores or restaurants from where the samples were taken may not know that they’re victims of seafood fraud as well.
It is common in the fish industry for expensive fish to be replaced with cheaper alternatives. At the current time, industry insiders are convinced that the mislabeling is not just a case of an employee mistakenly placing the wrong label on some of the fish, but a deliberate act by some who are driven by profit. It is to be noted that the practice of seafood mislabeling was first discovered via DNA lab results a decade ago.
The danger with seafood mislabeling is that people who have allergies may accidentally eat fish they’re allergic to. Harmful fish products such as escolar might be ingested and could cause serious health issues or even death. Plans are currently being drawn to try to find a way to impose traceability for seafood products to decrease fraud.
Are you in the seafood business but not sure whether your seafood suppliers are free from fraud? Our private investigation services may be able to help. Contact us at Haywood Hunt for a consultation on how our private investigators can assist you.