Think that tai sushi you're eating is red snapper? It's far more likely to be tilapia, says Oceana, a Washington, D.C.-based ocean conservancy organization. This isn't a new concern, of course. Former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh wrote a scathing exposé of the issue back in 2001, "Fish Fraud," in which he documented the red snapper substitutions rampant in Texas. And yet the problem persists.
|© Oceana / Jenn Hueting|
|All ten seafood samples purchased from Texas sushi restaurants, all located in Austin, were mislabeled, according to Oceana's study.|
Last week, Oceana released a new study in which it found 33 percent of the fish samples it analyzed from across the United States were mislabeled. The most frequently swapped-out fish? Snapper and tuna, which had mislabeling rates of 87 percent and 59 percent respectively.
The two-year-long study analyzed 1,215 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states, and found that Texas was one of the worst offenders. According to Oceana's data, nearly half the fish sold in retail outlets and restaurants in Texas is mislabeled. The only other areas of the country worse at telling escolar from white tuna were Southern California (52 percent of its samples were mislabeled) and Pennsylvania (56 percent).
These findings echo previous studies done by outlets ranging from Consumer Reports and the Chicago Sun-Times to the University of North Carolina, which found in 2004 that 77 percent of fish being sold as red snapper was actually another species entirely. Mislabeling seafood is illegal, although the Food and Drug Administration -- which is responsible for monitoring this area -- typically focuses its efforts on food safety, not food fraud.
"It is very difficult for consumers to purchase a real red snapper in Austin and Houston," the Oceana study reported. "None of the eight 'red snapper' samples tested were true red snapper; three were tilapia, two were breams and three were less expensive snapper species."More »