WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com) — Southern California leads the nation in seafood fraud, according to a study released by an international ocean conservation group.
Oceana’s findings showed 52 percent of seafood sold in grocery stores, restaurants and sushi bars was mislabeled in the Southland, which was 20 percent higher than the national average of 33 percent.
Researchers said the fish that was often disguised as something else was cheaper or more “readily available,” such as red snapper and tuna.
Los Angeles County officials said they have increased inspections and stepped up enforcement actions after a similar study, which was conducted three months ago, found more than 70 percent of restaurants and markets were mislabeling seafood.
William McCarthy, a professor of public health at UCLA, said food fraud especially affects pregnant women, who must avoid fish with high levels of mercury.
“They’re very careful with what type (of seafood) they select and now they’re discovering that what they purchased is not what they were told it was. So pregnant women, in particular, could be harming their babies,” he said.
McCarthy told KCAL9’s Randy Paige that people should be vigilant in their seafood choices.
“I continue to recommend fish because it’s so clearly a preferred choice relative to the high saturated fat of pork or beef, but somehow, I want to encourage the consumer to find a…food source they have good confidence in,” he said.