Monday, February 25, 2013

Name that tuna

The escolar, Lepidocybium flavobrunneum,
which has been sold as white tuna and
Chilean sea bass.
You can't tuna fish? Heck, you can't even tell it's a tuna by looking at it.

The non-profit oceans conservation group Oceana last week announced the results of one of the largest seafood fraud investigations to date, revealing just how many seafood sellers around the United States are less than honest about their offerings.

The study compiled data from more than 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retailers in 21 states between 2010 to 2012. DNA testing showed that 33 percent of those samples were mislabeled or posing as fish that they were not. Samples claimed to be tuna and snapper had the highest fail rates, at 59 percent and 87 percent, respectively. Only seven of 120 samples of “red snapper” purchased nationwide actually proved to be red snapper. The rest belonged to any of six different misrepresented species.

As Quartz reporter Christopher Mims points out, in Chicago, Austin, New York and Washington D.C., every single sushi restaurant sampled sold mislabeled tuna. In 84 percent of samples, “white tuna” turned out to be escolar, a fatty fish that produces a side effect that I won't mention on a food blog.

As Mims writes, if you’ve ever wondered why the sushi in the display case is so plentiful given the dwindling supply of tuna around the world, well, this may explain it.

The good news is that the fish in your grocery store has a 82 percent chance of being what it is labeled as, compared to 62 percent in all restaurants and a mere 26 percent in sushi restaurants. Another reason that maybe you should be cooking at home more often.

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