Nationwide study casts a wide net over seafood fraud
February 21st, 2013
03:02 AM ET
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Mislabeled fish is flooding the marketplace and Americans may be swallowing it hook, line and sinker, according to a new study by an environmental activist group.

A look at seafood sales across the country by ocean conservation group Oceana found that roughly one third of the time, seafood sold at U.S. grocery stores, seafood markets, restaurants and sushi venues had been swapped for species that are cheaper, overfished, or risky to eat.

Beth Lowell, campaign director for Oceana, told CNN that the study was conducted over the course of two years and encompassed retail outlets in major metropolitan areas across 21 states. Staff and supporters of the organization purchased 1,247 pieces of fish and submitted samples to a lab for DNA testing to determine if the species matched the in-store menu or label in accordance with Food and Drug Administration naming guidelines.

Out of the 1,215 samples that were eventually tested, 401 were determined to be mislabeled.

The FDA, which holds the primary responsibility for the safety of seafood products in the United States, uses a Web-based resource known as the Regulatory Fish Encyclopedia to aid in the identification of commercially important species of fish. The agency worked with several organizations, including the University of Guelph's Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, where the Oceana study’s testing was conducted, to develop the Fish Barcode of Life Initiative (FISH-BOL) program, which introduced a definitive, universal system for identifying fish.

Seafood fraud is of particular interest to the FDA not only because the lack of a standard naming convention would prevent correct species identification and inhibit processors' and consumers' knowledge of the potential safety hazards and allergens, but also because it may enable economic fraud due to high value fish being swapped for lower value species. The FDA’s “Seafood List” identifies acceptable market, scientific, common and vernacular names and specifies which may be used interchangeably to avoid any ambiguity in the marketplace. The agency frowns upon the use of vernacular names, which are usually introduced at the regional level.

[soundcloud url="" params="liking=false&show_artwork=false&show_comments=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
13:36 – Eatocracy speaks with CNN Radio's Edgar Treiguts about how to buy responsibly sourced and tracked fish

The two most mislabeled fish, according to Oceana, were snapper (for which 33 different species of fish including rockfish, perch, sea bream and tilapia were substituted) and tuna, which was mostly replaced with escolar - an often-banned snake mackerel that can cause mild to severe gastric distress to those who consume it. In many cases, Atlantic cod, which is often overfished, was mislabeled as the more sustainable Pacific cod (and vice-versa). Grouper was often replaced with at-risk species including Gulf grouper and speckled hind, or in one case, king-mackerel, a high-mercury fish that the federal government has advised sensitive groups, such as pregnant women, to avoid.

The most frequent outlet for mislabeling was sushi restaurants. Out of 118 sushi venues visited, 95% sold fish that varied from their menu identification, including the previously mentioned snapper and tuna, as well as yellowtail/hamachi, which was incorrectly labeled in every case.

Diners at non-sushi restaurants received considerably more honest ingredients,according to Oceana, with just more than half of the 148 visited locations selling incorrectly labeled fish (snapper and cod again were the most slippery catch). And grocery store shoppers fared best of all, with only 27% of the 408 stores selling seafood that didn’t live up to its label’s claims.

While this was one of the largest studies to date, the findings echoed those in previous studies by the Boston Globe (48% mislabeling in 183 local samples in 2011, with little improvement in a 2012 follow-up), Consumer Reports (20 to 25% mislabeled), and the United States Government Accountability Office, which used its 2009 findings to call on the federal government for additional inspection resources.

But who is responsible for reeling in this widespread fraud and why is it happening in the first place?

That’s where things get fishy, despite the efforts of the seafood industry. U.S. fishermen provide most of this information at the dock, but save for product from participants in voluntary programs like Trace Register or Trace and Trust, it is extremely difficult for vendors and consumers to track this information from boat to plate.

The matter is further muddied by the fact that 91% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported from other countries, 54% of which is processed at sea, and roughly 2% of which is governmentally inspected for fraud. The further a fish gets from its origins, sold in parts rather than whole, the more difficult it is to track to its eventual destination, leaving the supply chain wide open to human error and deliberate deception.

According to the GAO, three federal agencies play key roles in detecting and preventing seafood fraud: the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, which reviews import information to detect fraud schemes; the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service, which offers a voluntary, fee-based inspection program, and the FDA, which focuses its seafood-specific resources primarily on health issues by way of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points management program. The separation of responsibility and lack of collaboration, the GAO’s analysis found, left the system especially vulnerable to fraud.

While the agencies might not be aligned in their methodology, they - and organizations like Oceana, Food and Water Watch and the Blue Ocean Group - do all agree: every level of the seafood chain suffers as a result of fraud. From the economic impact on the fisheries that are undercut by sellers skirting the rules, fish species endangered by a muddied tally of their stocks, vendors and chefs whose reputations are at stake, and diners who risk ingesting allergens and toxins from mislabeled fish, there is a cost to misidentified seafood.

In 2009, the FDA sanctioned seafood seller Peter Xuong Lam, president of Virginia Star Seafood Corporation, after he was convicted of conspiracy to import catfish, falsely labeled as sole, grouper, flounder, snakehead, channa, and other species of fish, from Vietnam for fraudulent sale. He was sentenced to five years in prison and became the first food importer ever to be debarred (for a period of 20 years) by the agency. The agency continues to cite and seeks to prosecute offenders who attempt to undermine the system, but notes that the responsibility of regulating retail food stores and restaurants falls primarily to state and local agencies.

In 2012, U.S. Reps. Edward Markey and Barney Frank, both Massachusetts Democrats, introduced the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act which would require full traceability for all seafood sold in the United States. The bill died in Congress, but industry members and civilians are taking up the charge.

Members of the National Fisheries Institute can sign a pledge to stamp out economic fraud in the seafood industry, and its Better Seafood Board provides a mechanism for members of the seafood industry to report fraud where they see it occurring and provide documentation on issues that arise.

Closer to the plate, in October 2012, 500 chefs - including Mario Batali, Thomas Keller and Rick Bayless - signed a pledge calling on the U.S. government to require that seafood be traceable in order to prevent seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the U.S. market.

But diners need not be left dangling.

Lowell recommends that consumers empower themselves by purchasing whole fish, which are easier to identify, and not trusting prices that seem too good to be true. She also encourages asking questions of fish vendors, such as what kind of fish it is, whether it was wild-caught or farm-raised and where, when and how the fish was caught. Even raising the question will alert the sales staff that consumers are interested in where their food comes from - and that they won’t settle for anything fishy.

Consumer Resources:

NOAA - The public can send information on possible mislabeling violations to or NOAA’s hotline at 1-800-853-1964
Better Seafood Board
FDA Acceptable Market Names
Blue Ocean Group

Previously - Faux pas! Food fraud on the rise

soundoff (314 Responses)
  1. soulcatcher

    I was a victim of over the weekend with red lobster and their Fish and chips(no wrong doing on their part – just a menu change I think). It appears they changed their menu within the last year. They previously had atlantic cod in their fish and chips (dark 1 inch diameter fish sticks) and now are serving a whole fillet of what appears to be haddock (or pollack) (black stripe and all). i don't like what they are serving now – might be pacific cod or haddock as the fish isn't salty or white and flakey like what I've been used to.

    Red lobster has a menu picture on their site that is acurate as what you get now – not sure what type of fish it is.

    I'm not ordering or eat

    February 25, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  2. I'm_Hungry_for_FISH_

    Well,I recently ate:



    and flounder

    honestly,they all taste the same.NO BIG DEAL!!!!!! Just eat the GOD DAMN fish and be happy!!__

    February 24, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Owen

      How about some horse? If we can't keep the relatively few cuts of land-meat straight, how in the world will ANY amount of government oversight get the hundreds of edible fish species correct? Stop trying. Caveat empur. (Ha, spell check wanted to make that tempura! Appropriate)

      February 25, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  3. Charlie

    The FDA is underfunded and understaffed. Kind of incredible how a segment of Americans keep pushing for tax cuts while the quality of government service goes down the tubes.
    The number of food inspections has declined over the past decades as FDA funding has declined in proportion to an increasing workload. Are you aware the it is pharmaceuticals that fund drug testing which is then reviewed by the FDA? Would you expect research being funded by pharmaceuticals about their own new products to be impartial?

    February 24, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Nearly all of the swapping discussed in the article is occurring at the leaves of the distribution network – individual restaurants and their last-tier suppliers. None of these fall under FDA regulation, and never have; they are generally the purview of state and city inspections.

      Nice rant, though.

      February 24, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
      • C'mon man

        You missed the point entirely.

        February 26, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  4. Poncho

    I bought a small fish and chips restaurant in 2006. I quickly learned that the previous owners were substituting a Vietnamese catfish called 'Basa' for almost everything on the menu – even halibut! And they gave huge portions because basa costs about two dollars a pound compared to about fifteen a pound for halibut. Their customers purchased the huge portions and never questioned it. When I took over, I got rid of all the basa and replaced the halibut, haddock, and other fish with the real thing. Guess what? Customers were really angry at me for giving smaller portions, but charging the same (or appropriate) prices. I learned that many other fish restaurants substitute. Some really busy and successful places do it. You really need to be careful. Vietnamese catfish is raised in cages in the very polluted Mekong River. They use a carcinogenic antifungal substance called malachite green that is used for fish in aquariums – not for consuming. Do not be afraid to ask questions before ordering fish at a restaurant!!!!!

    February 23, 2013 at 1:24 am |
  5. stephen48739

    I like the taste of pollack, broiled four minutes each side, with margarine and lemon pepper for seasoning. I purchase pollack by the ten pound box, for about sixteen dollars. I re-package it into individual serving sizes and keep it in the same box in the freezer.

    February 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • Dean

      Isn't that special?

      February 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
      • jzaks

        Geez, I thought it was sorta special.

        February 24, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • navajowkb

      Ever since I heard from an Southeast Asian acquaintance and former colleague of mine, who told me that "tilapia" is trash fish like to some people in southeastern U.S. who think "catfish" as trash fish, I make sure that I am ever served either of them. Tilapia supposedly came by the way of Mexico where it's popular with poor people just like in Southeast Asia. Those two species probably makes good substitute for the more expensive fish. I'd rather consume what I catch myself.

      February 23, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
      • edwin

        There's nothing wrong with either Tilapia or Catfish, it's just stigma that's been applied for them.

        I hope for your sake you don't eat crustaceans/shellfish.

        February 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  6. Jack Payette

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Interesting piece on seafood related to sustainability & safety.

    February 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  7. lajoya rica

    While Fraud is a serious issue, the FDA is not in the fish business and their acceptable market names make it more confusing, more difficult and ultimately more expensive. EX: a Highly respected Los Angeles Seafood Company has one full time FDA guru to study the guidelines and make sure they are getting the names right. Patagonian tooth fish or Antarctic cod? FDA approves: dogcockle and morid cod as acceptable market names.

    February 22, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  8. Sharp

    And the Republicans are dead set on gutting the FDA so that we will be at the complete mercy of the Big Food Corporations of whatever kind. The new chicken inspection scheme will make it next to impossible for the government to guarantee the quality of chicken. Who knows if we have a horse meat problem like Europe does. There are some things that government has to do even if it affects some big corporation's bottom line.

    February 22, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • humtake

      This is where Liberals lose all creditability. You are nothing but hypocrites. Republicans want the FDA to become more efficient instead of a global money sink that takes bribes and extorts those who do not follow their rule. Sound familiar? This is EXACTLY what Dems want Reps to do to to the Pentagon and other various agencies.

      Stop being a hypocrite. Both sides hold more importance in specific agencies and the ones they don't hold as important they want to mess with and remove funding, etc.

      February 22, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Loyal Democrat

      We democrats are determined to to have people turn from fish to Church's Chicken. As we were able to elect a president with an IQ of 71, it should be easy. For every Cadillac you buy from Government Moters you get a free chicken dinner from Church's Chicken with a side of greens.

      February 23, 2013 at 12:38 am |
      • Dave

        People like you are EXACTLY WHY Republicans lost the 2012 election and will probably not get the presidency back for decades more to come.

        February 23, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • WhatsamattaU

        The president's toe fungus has a higher IQ than you do, you sad sad person.

        February 25, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – according to the article, the fish is mostly correctly identified and inspected when it enters the country. The illicit substitutions are occurring much farther down the distribution chain, far outside the FDA's reach, at the state and local level.

      Nice rant, though.

      February 24, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  9. william

    Well of course the root cause of this is that the same NGO's have completely decimated the United State's fishing industry while there is huge demand for seafood. Naturally, that demand is going to get filled from somewhere and that some where most likely doesn't have the same controls over the catching, handling, processing, and labeling of those products.

    February 22, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  10. quittingtime

    Check out this infographic on the mislabeling problem in NYC.

    February 22, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  11. aurelius

    Found a chicken bone in my fish sandwich the other day. Does that fall within "abuse", or accidental occurrence?

    February 22, 2013 at 4:10 am |
  12. Big Fish

    Of course, Republicans would consider any effort by the government to halt these practices to be over regulation and a detriment to business interests.

    February 21, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • gager

      Only a fool thinks the government could stop this nonsense. Regulations are already in place...that will not stop fraud. The best defense is not to rely on the government but to become an informed consumer.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:30 am |
      • Johnnyboy

        This has been expressed several times, how would you know if the fish was legit or not? Food coloring is added to Faux Salmon to make it look like Salmon. It's not as easy as you think. This why you need to someone from the outside running tests to determine if the fish is indeed the fish that you think it is.

        February 22, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  13. David P

    This is a bigger problem than most people realize and it extends way beyond just seafood. According to the U.S Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), there has been a 60% increase in the number of records in their food fraud database since 2010. I started a site recently ( focused on cooking with whole foods, discussing food safety, and increasing awareness of the risks that refined, artificial, GMO, or processed foods bring to the dinner table.

    Read this article posted on food fraud to find out more:

    We need more accountability when it comes to food labeling. Consumers deserve the piece of mind of knowing that what they are purchasing is properly represented on the label.

    February 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  14. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    What's funny is that I actually ADORE escolar and LOVE when it is served to me as opposed to regular tuna. I know my fish very very well so I know when there is an imposter or not. To me, escolar is not an imposter. lol

    February 21, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
  15. Superman

    "91% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported from other countries."

    That is ridiculous!!! We should be able to provide most of our seafood.

    And to emphasize the fraud that is out mom on, at least, 2 occasions has bought salmon that the woman in the fish market said was wild caught. However, I've been telling my mom that wild caught salmon is RED and farm-raised salmon is PINK. The salmon that she bought was pink. My mom keeps saying that the fish market lady wouldn't lie to her. I just shake my head. I tried to tell her.

    February 21, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • Superman

      Actually, farm-raised salmon is gray. They just artificially color it with a red dye to make it pink so you people will buy it.

      February 21, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
      • surewhynot

        Great point. They do the same with cheese. Cheddar is white from the beginning. Why is it orange at the market? It's dyed so people will buy it. They also inject red meat packaging with CO2 to preserve the color.

        February 24, 2013 at 3:47 am |
      • edwin

        Perception is king. I know I won't buy read meat that isn't red or salmon that isn't pink. We've been conditioned to think that's the color it's supposed to be.

        February 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      Superman – glad you're making the attempt to be an aware consumer, but... No, wild-caught salmon is not necessarily red. Typically, only sockeye salmon and Sometimes Coho salmon are red. Other Coho, Chinook and pink salmon are orange to pink. The reason we import so much fish is because a lot of the fish sold in America was farmed – farmed salmon from Chile, farmed shrimp from Thailand, farmed talapia from China, etc. These farmed products are generally ecologically unsustainable and more toxin-laiden that wild fish, but they are cheaper. Real wild fish is expensive – but worth every penny.

      February 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • william

      Well of course the root cause of this is that the same NGO's have completely decimated the United State's fishing industry while there is huge demand for seafood. Naturally, that demand is going to get filled from somewhere and that some where most likely doesn't have the same controls over the catching, handling, processing, and labeling of those products.

      February 22, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  16. Barbra & Jack Donachy

    The root of this problem is that the FDA permits fish to be marketed under almost any name fishermen, fish sellers and restaurants want to use. Think of fish as brands. The analogy would be if it were permissible to market Anything as Gucci – regardless of who made it. Another analogy would be permitting every meat – chicken, pork, cat, dog, rump roast – to be marketed as filet mignon, and leaving it up to consumers to sort out what is what. There's an easy fix. It simply isn't true that there isn't an agreed upon nomenclature for fish. There is. The American Fisheries Society (AFS) has a list of one, single, agreed-upon name for virtually every fish that swims. The FDA should insist that those names be used, and periodic inspections should be conducted to ensure laws are being followed. The question is, Why doesn't the FDA want a solution to this problem (they clearly do not). Money. People make a lot of it marketing talapia as snapper, greenling as trout and "whatever" as something called "white tuna."

    February 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • US Fisherman

      Well put!

      February 22, 2013 at 1:35 am |
  17. Rick

    Trusting the Politicians and thinking that its the other states senators and congressmen are the problem is the real problem. What is needed is a complete change of those in Washington is what is needed to change their attitudes, vote every last one of these ignoramuses out.

    February 21, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  18. Chef Garcia

    This just continues to drive home that we should be buying whole local seafood in every region we live in. For the land locked states its a trust in your fish monget or fish market. Stick to seafood as close to you as possible, buy whole when possible and if your vendor can't tell you where it came from or show you whet he got the information, then don't buy it. We need to stay away from imported, processed at sea , previously frozen seafood that we can't trace.

    February 21, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • 18dogbaby

      I completely agree with you! stick to local and sustainable species... a little thought when buying goes a long way.

      February 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  19. SuZieCoyote

    The entire food supply is tainted. This is what unregulated capitalism looks like. And it isn't just agribusiness. It is every corporatized industry in the world. Poisonous medicines, children given psychotropic drugs because they don't adapt well to a mechanized educational system, fractionated corn, pesticides and a whole cast of toxic chemicals in all the food, environmental devastation in the oceans, the forests, the rivers, the land. Genocide of indigenous peoples throughout the world. This folks, is the "invisible hand" that rises up to choke humanity when industry is freed of community oversight and control. Industry should serve humanity. Not the other way around.

    February 21, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Coflyboy`

      Quality is best, but in America cheap is good enough. The question remains: what is the real cost?

      February 21, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • gager

      You know little of food and even less of economics. The statists idea of protection makes idjuts of consumers when they should be able to identify foods and fish. It isn't capitalism that is at fault, it is people thinking the government will protect the citizen against ignorance.

      February 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
      • Cee Mills

        Are you asking all consumers to be experts on fish? I don't know about you, but I work a regular 8 to 5, which means I don't have the time to learn how to identify fifty or a hundred different types of fish on sight.

        For somebody who berates others on "not knowing economics," you seem to lack an understanding of the importance of specialization.

        February 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
      • Barbra & Jack Donachy

        gager... We wish you were kidding. Even experts like us are at a loss when presented with a piece of fish at a restaurant that appears to not be what it was supposed to be. We don't carry a DNA kit with us, and short of that a manager who is willfully mislabeling fish isn't going to suddenly say, "Gee, you're right." Educate yourself and think a little before you go on these forms, OK?

        February 21, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Eric

      The problem is so far from under regulation. Like anything in America the regulation is so dense, disjointed, and confusing it is as hard to interpret as it is to enforce with any quantity or quality. I do agree however that people should be very wary of food in general. Your idea that more regulation is the cure to any problem is foolish. The government hardly enforces the existing laws of this country with any precision. Thinking that the new laws will be better enforced is just moronic.

      February 21, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
      • Barbra & Jack Donachy

        Eric, with all due respect, you don't appear to know much about this. The problem is precisely a lack of regulation. This issue (fish) has been under the radar for a long, long time. We have copyright and patents to protect brands and a rigorous inspection process for beaf and for cuts of beaf. These regulations (generally) work well. The Problem Is... we have nothing like this in place for fish. We need it. Before you go on these forums...

        February 21, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • tc4012

      Thank you Suzie Coyote. The solution is clearly everything should be run by the Central Scrutinizer and we should all plook tiny chrome-plated machinea That look like a magical pigs with marital aids stuck all over it... now – go put your tin hat back on before the alien astro rays get you...

      February 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Lindy

      And the Republicans want the government out of people's lives. Then it will be 100% mislabeled fish.

      February 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
  20. Paladin Knight

    This is why we should be eating seafood that is labeled as "Louisiana Seafood" or Gulf Of Mexico Seafood". You can't go wrong with either!!!

    February 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Matt

      AMEN!! I"m lucky enough to live on the Gulf Coast and I couldn't agree more!!

      February 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Rockweed

      Except for the fact that the entire gulf ecosystem has been tainted and quite possibly unsafe for consumption.

      February 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  21. us_1776

    The fruits of all this 33 years of GOP deregulation.



    February 21, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  22. Tom

    Maybe that ain't peanut butter we are eating !!!!!!!!!!

    February 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  23. cpc65

    I thought they were going to say the fish contained the beef which was being substituted with horse meat.

    February 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  24. RobertOKUSA

    Republicans have successfully cut "meddlesome, job-killing, government regulation" so effectively that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Welcome back to the 1800's America!

    February 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • tc4012

      lol – incredible – you can blame everything on them can't you? What about the asteroid fly by? That was their fault too right?

      February 21, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
      • WhatsamattaU

        Try thinking things out. Spending cuts sooner or later will have an effect on the services provided. If don't think anyone should care just what the hell is actually in that jar of peanut butter, fish sticks package or blob of red meat, your wish is coming true. The problem is that the marketplace will correct for the liars and cheats only after they've killed enough people for the marketplace to notice. The purpose of food regulation is to avoid the initial deaths. Get it?

        February 25, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  25. us_1776


    Germinating a new criminal every hour.


    February 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • tc4012

      damn those capitalist! America should be marxist communists right? smfh amazing the absolute treasonous traitors that are rife on cnn...

      February 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  26. Joe

    As long as people selfishly keep breeding at an uncontrollable pace, having more than one child per couple, the problem will continue to get worse. There's just not enough "good" food to go around, folks. There's a big game of bait 'n' switch going on, and the government is actually complicit in it. As long as they can keep our bellies full of SOMETHING, people are happy.

    February 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • GetReal

      Yeah, blame the victim AND grind your own unrelated ax while you're at it...

      February 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • China

      Go back to China.

      February 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Elana

      Americans waste 33 million tons of food. There actually is enough food to go around, but it is not "going around".

      February 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • KawiMan

      Yes. You're right!

      Human overpopulation is the root cause of most of the world's greatest problems. Most people don't want to face that fact. They think it's their divine right to procreate ad infinitum. I'm sure humans will continue making babies as they always have. I'll be dead & gone, thank God, before the human overpopulation reaches critical mass, it gets real ugly in this world. Just watch and see what happens and is happening now...

      For the naysayers – One small example result of human overpopulation is Easter Island. Study it and learn something.

      February 21, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
      • Joe

        Feel free to leave this planet anytime! I believe there's a ship going to Mars in a few years...climb aboard!

        February 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
      • less is more

        KawiMan is right. Educated people contribute to the solution by having less than two kids. Any more than that and you're part of the problem. Quality, not quantity. Besides, Joe, your brood won't be able to get a job when they grow up and they'll be living in your basement until age 35.

        February 21, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
        • Johnnyboy

          Overpopulation is a general issue, however, it would not apply to this case. This is more about making money and providing something completely different than what someone actually ordered.

          February 22, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • bigbiz

      Some clown on this thread said itwas GOP deregulation.Joke..Its impossible to inspect each container of fish that comes to our ports from overseas.It would be possible to have cities and counties health inspectors take samples from cafes however.Nothing to do with GOP.

      February 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • ricciap

      Agree that human overpopulation is the root cause of this and other global problems. Fish is a source of food for many populations. Today, 80% of the world's fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted or in a state of collapse. Right now, there are 7 billion+ people on the planet. Almost one billion people around the world go hungry each day. And we’re on track to add another couple of billion people by the end of the century. Unless we get a handle on population growth, issues with sourcing fish and other food are only going to grow.

      February 24, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  27. Sam R

    That is harmful fraud. The consumer is being hurt by this dishonesty. Take away their license to sell immediately. Close down their stores. Let honest people sell.

    February 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  28. Tom

    This makes me so angry!!!! ://////////

    February 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  29. vegan_crank

    this story makes me wonder whether my beans really were flagelots...

    bon apetit, omni suckers!

    February 21, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  30. The Flamingo Kid

    The general public is being lied to about a lot of things. I am sure most of the "certified organic" food that people buy is not really CO.

    February 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Ron

      I remember reading an article in the "National Fisherman" magazine about 30 years ago, about the discovery of a process where the offshore factory processing ships could use the discarded products from cleaning fish, to manufacture a white fish looking substance. The added artificial color in streaks here and there and started selling it as "surimi" (don't know if that spelling is correct) and as an "artificial" crab meet. It was fish entrails and other products. The National Fisherman magazine reported it, and I expected to see lots of follow up articles, but don't recall ever seeing any other mention of it in any media. But I sure so see lots of "artificial crab" offered in seafood markets all the time. Although not cheap nowadays, it is less expensive than the genuine article and apparently pretty popular. I wonder how much of this imitation crab meat gets sold as the real thing. I don't know. But I have always declined to buy it anyway, after having read the article about the ingredients that go into its production aboard the factory trawler/processing ship.

      February 21, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
      • CobiaKiller

        It is still widely available...

        February 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • Snorkle

        Surimi is made from pacific pollack. It is not made from inedible parts, but from the meat and can be made to imitate crab, lobster or shrimp. It does taste quite a bit like the original (but not quite) and has a similar texture (but not quite). Pollack is pretty good in its own rite-that's what McDonalds' new fish bites are. The point is that it is all good, unlike the farm-raised trash like tilapia that really aren't suitable for eating and often raised where they can feed on pig or chicken crap.

        February 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
        • DonK

          With over two decades in the international seafood industry, I can say that the feeding of tilapia with feces is not a valid concern. To say it exists is likened to a backyard gardener putting feces in his compost pile. It happens and it is not regulated and it is not put into the commercial supply chain for export. Today's tilapia farming-for-export sector relies on prepared feeds by companies like Cargill and Bayer. Tilapia farmed in China is safe as food can get. It may not be the most culinarily prestigious protein but it has little to no food hazard.

          February 21, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • CobiaKiller

          Sorry Donk, but using tilapia as feces eaters is very common in the US....yes, the tilapia also get some feed pellets as well, but that is not the main part of their diet. You may speak for the international tilapia farmers, but I know for a fact that a few different fishfarms in california and florida have specific pens for the tilapia to filter out their water, water that was used for striped/white bass, as well as catfish and rainbow trout farms.

          February 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
  31. tony

    Hey, who needs wasteful spending big government regulations ruining hard-working, honest, big corporations bringing delicious, always safe and wholesome food to everyone's table at low prices and no higher than fair CEO salary, stock and benefits packages . . . . I wonder where the higher up Republican's eat?

    February 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  32. ted

    I don't care, as long as the clueless establishment isn't trying to lay some Talapia on me.
    Talapia Fish n Chips
    Talapia Ceviche
    Talapia Grilled
    Talapia Sandwich

    it used to cost like 1.99 a pound, and was a cheap alternative for home use, at our discretion. until every clueless restaurant out there saw it as a way to cut corners and stiff the consumer. The restaurant demand has grown so big for it, that talapia cost more than Snapper, Corvina, or Salmon in many SoFlorida stores. They asked for it, they've got it. But I refuse to eat Talapia out, like I said, it was a good alternative for HOME use. When I even see the word Talapia on a menu in a restaurant, I abruptly get up and me and my table of 6 walk out of the place. I can cook superior fish at home for half the price. You just lost a customer for life, Moron.

    Cut some more corners ACE!

    February 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Olaf Big

      Fish and chips with Tilapia is Ok, Tilapia sandwich is Ok, but if you see Tilapia ceviche on the menu, run for your life!

      February 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
      • ted

        It's NOT OK especially when you consider, talipia is supposed to be the alternative,
        But if every establishment is selling it, then it creates demand issues, which inturn make it more expensive than a more premium fish. Then I'd rather pay less and then go to a place that sells COD fish and chips. Talapia is no COD when it comes to fish and chips.

        February 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
        • 1fish2fish

          I agree with you, Ted. When you order the premium fish, you're probably getting tilapia anyway (according to this article), so you might as well just buy the more expensive tilapia in the store (It's still cheaper than the premium-priced mis-labeled tilapia "snapper")

          February 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
        • ted

          Like I said my wife has been serving Talapia since it first showed up on store shelves here in the states from Asia about 10 years ago. I know talapia. When it is substituted for the fish I order. Such as Cod, Corvina, or Grouper or Mahi mahi.
          As for Snapper, I only eat whole snappers fried. Or trout, you can't pass talapia off as trout.
          I'm not a fillet kinda guy, that goes for those blackened or almondine menu items where talapia could be passed off as those filets. When I order Fish and Chips, I ask the waiter first what is the fish. If they aren't 2 inch cubes of white flaky fish with that distinct Cod flavor, this Kid isn't paying for it.

          But my pet peeve goes beyond being lied to, I just don't like to see it on the menu period, especially when a restaurant always served the appropriate fish for the dish, but thinks by replacing the item with Talapia would be a good move. I see it as a cheepass move on the management of the establishment and it throws the whole operation into question. What else are they cutting corners on to save money. It raises a big red flag, and it these economic times, there's no telling what you're being served in any dish in a place like that.

          If the owner was concerned about turn over and profit on a fish dish, then they should just do away with that menu item period.

          The other fish that also sends me out of the door are...

          swai, pollac, and basa

          February 21, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • CobiaKiller

      What many people fail to realize is, most of the tilapia you buy has been farm raised...which sounds great, however, they are raising the tilapia to eat the poop from the pens of the more lucrative species. For all of you that like eating the wastebasket of the fishfarm, feel free and continue.

      February 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • vcq

        You can take the tilapia out of the farm...

        February 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • fred

      woo. we got a real bad ass here.

      February 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Merced Red

      Tilapia has only become so popular because restaurants and food companies are trying to attract Latino customers. The fish itself is crap (not to be confused with carp).

      February 21, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      Talapia is so bland when compared to Cod. I dont know how anyone can mistake them.

      February 21, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  33. so the moral is

    Buy cheap fish because it tastes the same as the more expensive stuff you think you are eating. Unless it gets you sick what does it really matter in the end if you enjoyed it and thought the meal was worth what you paid.

    February 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Mario

      Cheap fish = high levels of toxicity, thats why they are cheap in the first place.

      February 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
      • 1fish2fish

        Not necessarily. Tilapia = fast-growing, culturable freshwater fish hence it's cheap. I think it's relatively clean of toxins.
        Top predator or long-lived fish = high toxicity because they bioaccumulate toxins from all the other critters they eat. These include tuna, which can fetch a high price.

        February 21, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Olaf Big

      You are right, price is not always a good indication of quality or taste, but more to the point most people just don't know the difference between the really good and expensive fish and cheap so-so tasting fish. I don't think that's an excuse to cheat though.

      February 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Mona

      Someone below said check the country of origin too. Some of the farmed fish in Asia are fed human feces. blech.

      February 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
      • Brian

        Did you ever wonder why all pig farms have catfish ponds in the good ole US of A? Human waste or pig, what's the difference?

        February 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Ron

      Eat more mullet! It has a great taste (not tasteless like grouper and snapper) and it us usually sold whole so its identification is easier. But mullet has increased in price, up to nearly $7 per pound at Florida's Publix Supermarkets. I am fearful that a lot of seafood sold is not what it is labeled to be. Where did those oysters or clams come from? It is confusing and now even made scary since we can no longer rely on honesty in labeling by those selling it to us. I like seafood, and this problem is a serious one for me. If self regulation in the industry isn't working, and if government regulation isn't working either, then what is the solution?

      February 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  34. Flounder

    Hey that shrimp SWORE it was a real Rolex. I guess I better have it checked.

    February 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  35. are122

    This is one of my pet peeves. I went to a on the water seafood place in Daytona for a grouper sandwich to late find out (thru an employee) it was Basa (Vietnamese catfish). Haven't gone there since and won't. This is an easy way to ripoff customers. Too bad some portable method isn't available for testing what you order.

    February 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  36. Knucklehead

    Wait a minute...I can live with CitiBank and AIG and Enron and the entire Republican party being a bunch of lying b@st@rds...but now, Mrs. Pauls? That's too much...

    February 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • curent

      Go hang yourself

      February 21, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • Ron

      Long John Silver's, "Look out!"

      February 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  37. spacecalculus

    ☆☆☆☆☆ Health begins..........☆☆☆☆☆

    February 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  38. Clint

    Pay $50 for an all water fishing license. Take the kids and catch your own fish.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Mario

      good luck with catching salmon and grouper, by the time you make a meal your kids will be in college haha

      February 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
  39. fattycakefatfat

    Good thing I only buy cheap fish

    If I ever buy more expensive fish I will only get it whole

    February 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  40. Knucklehead

    You start regulating these fisherman, and it's going to hamstring capitalism. Besides, we can't afford to regulate fish producers...we're going under sequestration, which will through some miracle of the Free Market take care of the problem. Freaking socialists.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Casual_Observer

      You're right, over-regulation is bad. So is under-regulation. Either one 'hamstrings' the economy, except that it's easier to adjust laws than it is to restore fisheries once they're gone. It's a discussion that needs to happen to find the right balance.

      And this article is about stopping fraud anyway– it's not hard to justify enforcing laws in that regard.

      February 21, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Robert

      First of all, this is blatant consumer FRAUD being discussed here, not some trivial little marketing issue! Secondly, it is in the BEST interest of the entire fishing industry to properly MANAGE what IS and is NOT being fished in such huge numbers! The so-called "free market" you are worshiping is not entirely "free" and never has been! If we simply leave the "free market" alone and let the fishing industry do whatever they wish, then we will quickly see the END of lucrative commercial fishing when ALL of the most popular species are OVERFISHED at break-neck speed! What will the "free market" do when there are no more reserves of popular fish to replace what they have depleted? I suppose they will start serving us CARP labeled "Pacific Salmon"! I can hardly wait...

      February 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      If the industry cant be trusted to regulate itself then something needs to be done about it, pure and simple. If they didnt commit the fraud then nothing would need to be done.

      February 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  41. Olaf Big

    The U.S. Government should get more aggressive investigating and persecuting fraud, not so much to put swindlers in jail, as to slap huge fines on the companies that commit fraud – good for the federal budget, good for consumers. Aside from that, the advice to buy whole fish is quite funny if you know how much a whole tuna weighs and how much it costs.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Knucklehead

      We should just do what McDonald's does: grow fish filets in a petri dish in a lab. No problem.

      February 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • Chris

        There are scientists that have been able to take human waste(poo) and turn it into a steak that you can eat. Looks like a real steak and everything.

        February 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  42. Bruce Dixon

    We need more of this kind of reporting, but in a less breathy, over-caffeinated fashion...and not totally convoluted, as was the case. Anyone who listened carefully knows that Ms. Kinsman had everything backward ("Snapper was being substituted for much less expensive fish; Tuna was often substituted for...white tuna"). The screen scroll writers had it mostly right. The two typically madcap anchors apparently missed the gaffs, as they kept nodding and uh-hu-ing. I'm getting the impression that CNN is recruiting from the Comedy Channel and Saturday Night Live.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Actually what happened was that the sound was screwed up in my earpiece and I could hear myself a half second behind. It's really hard to operate when that happens, but I did my best.

      February 21, 2013 at 5:35 pm |

    Every location caught should be forced to shut down the business and the owners should be barred from reopening!

    February 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • are122


      February 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Chris

      Of course that's if they knew. It will get difficult to judge that unless they check with the source under cover. What if the people selling the fish to these places happen to be lying as well?

      February 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  44. LiqMat

    Great study and I am done going out for sushi. 95% mislabeled is ridiculous. Sad part is most Americans will keep shoveling non-organic pesticide ridden food and mislabeled food in their mouths while washing it down with non-filtered tap water and wonder why they have cancer and other diseases. You have to be involved and educated in this money is everything world which could care less about your safety and health.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Britta Taylor

      Yeah, I caved a few months ago and had a few pieces of sushi–i'm pregnant–god knows it wasn't salmon, it was a fish much higher in mercury content. I know i'll probably be okay, and so will the baby, but it's still disheartening.

      February 21, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
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