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