Fraudulent Fish: 50 Percent of Seafood Sold in Texas Mislabeled, New Oceana Study Reports

fishstudy.JPG
Courtesy of Oceana
Nearly half of the 27 retail outlets visited in Austin and Houston sold mislabeled fish. Samples purchased from restaurants were mislabeled almost 60 percent of the time.
In a bit of good news, however, Warner says that because 2012 was "a spectacular year for sockeye salmon," the wild-caught fish was abundant and the prices correspondingly lower. And where there's not much room to make money, there are fewer instances of fraud. In almost all the states where salmon was tested -- including Texas -- most of the samples tested as bona fide wild-caught salmon, as did the samples of mahi mahi and wahoo.

Another silver lining, says Warner, is that as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, supply chains for Gulf seafood feature much more transparency than in other parts of the world. And it's supply chains where the fraud is occurring; restaurants and grocery stores aren't willingly mislabeling food, after all. They're getting sold fraudulent products.

Warner praised the "traceable seafood that is available in the Gulf," encouraging Gulf Coast residents to "seek that out and support the people that are doing the right thing."

fishstudy2.JPG
Courtesy of Oceana
None of the eight "red snapper" samples tested in Texas were true red snapper; three were tilapia, two were breams and three were less expensive snapper species. One grocery store sold "crimson snapper," which was actually a goldbanded jobfish, a fish native to the Indo-Pacific.
Examples of these traceable supply chains close to home include retail operations like P.J. Stoop's weekly by-catch sale at Revival Market and restaurants such as the always-reliable Captain Benny's boats that are scattered around Houston. Captain Benny's has bought its seafood from a single distributor -- Dutchman's Seafood -- since opening, and elaborated on its Facebook page last week:

Dutchman's Seafood had been a long time player in the Houston seafood business, dating back to the 1940's. Once owning and operating their own shrimp boats, oyster reefs, processing facility, retail outlet and distribution network, Dutchman's was involved in just about every step of the business. ... Today Dutchman's Seafood is still owned by the same family and still sells directly to their own Capt. Benny's Restaurants insuring the quality of the products they offer.

Warner offers similar advice to consumers looking to insure their own seafood-purchasing experiences go well.

"Establish good relationships with the people you buy your seafood from," she says. "Ask questions. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is."

You can read the Oceana study in its entirety online, or just peruse the highlights.



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Location Info

Captain Benny's Half Shell Oyster Bar

8506 S. Main, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Revival Market

550 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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15 comments
Elouise
Elouise

Before his Fish Fraud piece, Robb Walsh wrote what I consider more of an explosive expose: meats masquerading as other meats. He found one place serving pork loin as 'veal'. Ouch. 

AtaboyLuther
AtaboyLuther

I thought I was eating bluefin tuna.  Who knew it was horse meat?

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

This is why I come here.  I would have never known this was a problem, much less a rampant one.  The question now is how do we solve it?

tiltingwindmills
tiltingwindmills

Solution: go to a real fishmonger like Rose's at the Kemah bridge and look at your fish in the eyes before purchasing it.

Casey Buhrer
Casey Buhrer

Ira Glass had a cool segment on NPR about "imitation calamari".

BertO
BertO

I wonder if self-proclaimed sushi experts like that long-winded fellow who sometimes posts here could tell the difference between various species? I'm sure most sushi eaters who gob their bites with soy and wasabi couldn't tell the difference. And ditto with the throw-the-kitchen-sink-into-a-crunch-roll eaters. 

(not that this excuses such fraudulent labeling) 

Plinkster
Plinkster

I agree with WS Bob.  I buy most of mu fish from Stoops, Airline Seafood and Whole Foods and think I am getting the real thing.  It would be great to see you follow up by reporting what specific Houston retailers are selling.

WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

As noted, we've seen these reports over the years.  When can we expect the follow-up analysis, by The Press, on Greater H'ton seafood eateries and whether they are selling us the real deal? 

Better yet, how about an undercover investigation of local seafood suppliers? Don't forget the Sysco's of the world either.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@BertO That long-winded fellow I believe you are speaking about is actually a woman and I highly doubt she could tell a mackerel from river trout.

Anse
Anse

@Plinkster I'm curious about Airline Seafood...that's the one on Richmond, right? I've only been in there once several years ago and it smelled horrible. I mean it stank! I haven't been back since. Was that just a fluke? Is it really a good place? I'd like to check it out again but I still remember the foulness of that one visit.

BertO
BertO

@J.A.Justice @BertO  I meant the President of the Houston Hare Club for Sushi, just forgot his nombre, hombre.

Plinkster
Plinkster

@Anse @Plinkster It is.  We have always had good luck with their products.  Have also seen Monica Pope and Chris Shepard there buying seafood and have to think they they are getting good stuff.  Now, I think it smells like seafood.  Maybe briny would be a good adjective.

But this is good reason for the Press and KC to jump in and find out what people are selling and serving us.

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