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LA County Task Force Finds Something Fishy With Seafood Labeling

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Dozens of supermarkets and restaurants across the Southland are engaging in widespread and rampant mislabeling of seafood products, county officials said Monday.

L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich called for the formation of a Seafood Task Force earlier this year to address the growing nationwide problem of seafood mislabeling after a study found that over half of all sushi products in Los Angeles County were improperly labeled.

The task force report (PDF) found fluke being passed off as halibut, tilapia being sold as perch, and even crawfish being packaged as lobster.

KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports the county’s top health official said the lack of labeling oversight could end up posing risks to public health.

“There are a few situations – like escolar – where it could become a health issue,” Dr. Jonathan Fielding said.

The task force – which is comprised of officials from the County Department of Public Health, the California Department of Food and Drug Branch and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – found as many 74 percent of food outlets surveyed were in violation of county standards.

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

In addition to the study, Antonovich also called for an assessment of the feasibility of county use of specialized FDA laboratories for testing local samples of imported fish.

“Consumers must have confidence that the fish they are buying at restaurants and grocery stores is safe and labeled correctly,” Antonovich said.

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