ABC World News: Fake Fish Scam

Salmon for Omega 3sOct 28, 2012 – ABC World News With Diane Sawyer recently reported on yet another scam, taking advantage the unsuspecting public in our efforts to consume more and healthy quantities of fish. While consumers are spending $80 billion every year, Consumer Reports found in their own tests widespread fraud in restaurants and groceries.  ABC also investigated and found 19 out of 21 restaurants tested,  sold us something other than what we ordered and/or what was advertised.

ABC’s Dan Harris says that you can walk up to the grocery fish counter and pick out you want.  But what are you really getting?

Consumer Reports chose 190 pieces of seafood from supermarkets and restaurants and sent them to a lab for DNA testing.  More than 1/5 of them were not as advertised.

Fish labeled as Red Snapper turned out to be the cheaper Ocean Perch.  Sole turned out to be Sutchi Catfish, imported from Vietnam, where Consumer Reports say fish farmers use drugs not approved here in the USA. Grouper turned out to be Tile Fish which has so much mercury that the government says pregnant women and children should not eat it.

ABC reports that fish fraud can be bad for your health and bad for your wallet because you are getting cheaper fish than you paid for.  And it’s not just in the supermarkets.  ABC News collected samples described as “White Tuna” from sushi restaurants from three cities and found that 19 of 22 samples turned out to be Escolar, a cheaper fish that can cause gastrointestinal and other intestinal problems.

ABC reported that 84% of our fish comes from overseas and only 2% of it is inspected.  Less than .001 is inspected for fraud!

Dan Harris visited Thailand to see the massive shrimp farm industry up close. He said shrimp found on the side of the road could end up in a supermarket in Iowa.  And Dan says people in the fish industry have known about the fraud problem for years.

But there are some tips that can help us.

  • Ian McGregor, Chief Fishmonger, at Lobster Place Fish Market in New York City says when you are buying Codfish filets, watch out for the less expensive Hake.  Hake will have yellow coloring while Codfish will have red marks.
  • When it comes to Salmon, the giveaway is the fat content.  Farmed raised Salmon tends to have a higher fat content and the fat may contain higher levels of toxic chemicals such as PCBs and pollutants from fish excrement and uneaten feed.
  • Consider canned wild salmon, which is much easier to find and is much less expensive and low in mercury.
  • Try to buy fish from places where the whole fish is cut right in front of you so you can see what you are getting.
  • Avoid buying super cheap fish because it is more liable to be fake.

ABC reports that even the experts say they can be fooled!

ABC World News
Washington State Department of Health

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