Fish fraud: Your salmon may not be who it says it is

SONY DSCNew findings released earlier this week showed that you may have been deceived the last time you ordered salmon at a restaurant. According to Oceana, an advocacy organization that’s previously found fraud in retail marketing of other fish, shrimp and crab cakes, diners were misled in restaurants when ordering salmon 67% of the time. The most common occurrence was labeling farmed salmon as pricier, more sustainable wild salmon.

Oceana also tested salmon in grocery stores, finding it was dramatically less likely to be mislabeled — about 20% — and that large grocery stores were significantly more reliable with salmon sourcing than small markets.

Still, of the 82 salmon samples taken during the 2013-2014 winter in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Virginia, 43% were mislabeled, the article states.

“Eat your salmon in season,” Dr. Kimberly Warner, senior scientist at Oceana and one of the writers of the study, said in the article. “Wild salmon is generally in season from May through September. Time of year makes such a big difference on whether salmon mislabeling is high or low.”

An earlier study by Oceana in 2013 came up with dramatically different results, finding that only 7% of 384 samples were mislabeled. However, that was when wild sockeye salmon was in season, Warner says. They retested salmon in the winter and were sadly affirmed.

“Of course, salmon is a popular dish — it’s the U.S.’s most consumed fish per capita — and it’s shocking to not be able to trust what you’re eating,” Warner said in the article. “Since the fish can only be tested at the retail level, it’s impossible to tell where along the salmon supply chain mislabeling occurs. However, the path from water to plate is often very convoluted.”

The article goes on to explain that the U.S. exports 70% of its wild salmon, even though that amount could fulfill 80% of the major demand in the country. The reason? Processing fish is cheaper out of the country.

“There’s currently no traceability system when it comes to salmon,” Warner said. “When it makes its way back to the U.S., it’s just this anonymous salmon.”

Aside from buying fresh seafood in season, Oceana suggests asking more questions about where your salmon is from, supporting traceable seafood and checking the price. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

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