Seafood fraud study: One-third of establishments labeled seafood incorrectly

You may love a well-prepared plate of fresh fish, but a new study says consumers are falling hook, line and sinker for fraudulent seafood.

The environmental advocacy group Oceana performed DNA testing on 449 fish samples from 277 stores and restaurants across the country. It found that nationwide, 21 percent of seafood was labeled incorrectly.

In Southern California, 23 percent of samples were mislabeled.

"Oceana found one-third of the establishments we visited sold mislabeled seafood," said Dr. Kimberly Warner, who authored the Oceana study. "Seafood fraud cheats consumers, it threatens consumer safety and it hides illegal practices."

Joey Kouchakian runs The Diplomat restaurant in Monrovia and has been in the food business for more than 20 years.

He said it's important for restaurant managers to deal with reputable fish vendors and customers to turn to restaurants they trust. Kouchakian also said government regulators need to keep a closer eye on seafood.

"For fish, they are not inspecting every single fish out there," he said. "There's no grading, there's no measure of quality on it."

Meanwhile, the Oceana study says Chilean Sea Bass fans are getting hit the hardest. It found the pricey fish is mislabeled 55 percent of the time, with the public often getting Toothfish instead.

To deal with the labeling problem, Oceana is calling for more stringent federal testing.

"Trace it all the way from the time it was caught or farmed until it ends up on the dinner plate," Warner said. "That's the only way consumers can be confident that what they're eating is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled."
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