National Seafood Fraud

Click on the .pdf report below by Oceana



Seafood is a popular and healthy food choice for many Americans, with the United States only trailing China, as the second largest seafood consumer worldwide. The American Heart Association, as well as new dietary guidelines from the U.S. government, both recommend eating eight ounces of seafood, or two seafood meals, a week. However, seafood consumers are often given insufficient, confusing or misleading information about the fish they purchase. Seafood is a global commodity and is one of the most commonly traded food items in the world. Today, more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and less than 1 percent is inspected by the government specifically for fraud. With more than 1,700 different species of seafood from all over the world available for sale in the U.S., it is unrealistic to expect the American consumer to be able to independently and accurately determine what they are actually eating. Despite growing concern about where our food comes from, consumers are frequently served a completely different type of fish than the one they paid for. As Oceana’s nationwide study and others demonstrate, seafood may be mislabeled as often as 26 to 87 percent of the time for commonly swapped fish such as grouper, cod and snapper, disguising fish that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available. While seafood fraud encompasses any illegal activity that misrepresents the fish you purchase, including mislabeling and falsifying documents, to adding too much ice to packaging, Oceana’s focus is on seafood substitution. From 2010 to 2012, Oceana conducted one of the largest seafood fraud investigations in the world to date, collecting more than 1,200 samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states to determine if they were honestly labeled. DNA testing found that one-third, or 33 percent, of the 1,215 seafood samples were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. While Oceana’s study was restricted to retail outlets, including restaurants, sushi venues and grocery stores, it is unknown exactly where in the supply chain seafood fraud actually takes place. With an increasingly complex and obscure seafood supply chain, it is difficult to identify if fraud is occurring on the boat, during processing, at the retail counter or somewhere along the way. Oceana’s testing results demonstrate that seafood fraud not only hurts our wallets, but also honest fishermen and businesses along the supply chain. These fraudulent activities also carry potentially serious concerns for our health as well as the wellbeing of our oceans and vulnerable fish populations.