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White Tuna Or White Lie? Misleading Labels Rampant Among Sushi Products

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(credit: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)

(CBS) Pete Demetriou
Pete Demetriou is a native Angeleno and he brings a unique knowledg...
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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Something fishy is going on in restaurants and frozen food aisles across the Southland.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports a new study found over half of seafood products sold in Los Angeles stores and restaurants may be misidentified.

Environmental advocacy group Oceana conducted DNA testing on 119 seafood samples from 74 retail outlets and found over 55 percent of the products were mislabeled.

The survey found 100 percent of 34 products labeled as red snapper turned out to be either tilapia or pollock, while almost nine out of every ten sushi samples were misidentified.

In addition, eight out of nine sushi samples labeled as “white tuna” were actually escolar, a species that is frequently found to have a strong laxative effect on consumers.

Beth Lowell with Oceana said the findings may be startling to consumers, but pinpointing any single factor may prove difficult.

“It’s either they get it from their distributor that’s mislabeled, you substitute a lower-priced fish for a higher-priced fish, or just trying to keep a constant supply in your store,” said Lowell.

Halibut in some cases was actually found to be flounder, some Pacific salmon actually determined to be Atlantic salmon, and some salmon labeled as wild caught was actually raised on a farm.

The report also found the practice — known as species substitution — was still rampant despite its violation of federal law.

But Mike Sigliano with Santa Monica Seafood – which has been in business since 1939 – said they take extraordinary measures to make sure the species are correct.

“We have a marine biologist on staff who will then do some vetting of the resource, go back to the shipper, ask a lot of questions,” said Sigliano.

He advised consumers to take a closer look at the price of any seafood they may be potentially buy to determine whether it stacks up to market pricing.

Lawmakers in Sacramento, meanwhile, are currently considering legislation by State Senator Ted Lieu that would require large restaurant chains to use accurate labels.

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