Consumer Fraud

Fraudulent mislabeling of seafood products rampant, DNA testing finds

Red snapper in cooler iStock 000010273646Small 435x289 Fraudulent mislabeling of seafood products rampant, DNA testing findsGenetic testing of hundreds of seafood samples found that one-third of the products were mislabeled as being something other than what the packaging said, according to the ocean conservation group Oceana.

The group’s study, conducted to determine whether seafood packaging is “honestly labeled,” examined 1,215 seafood samples collected from nearly 674 retail stores in 21 states. DNA testing on the samples found that 33 percent of the products were mislabeled according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

According to Oceana, “Of the most commonly collected fish types, samples sold as snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates … with the majority of the samples identified by DNA analysis as something other than what was found on the label.”

“In fact, only seven out of 120 samples of red snapper purchased nationwide were actually red snapper. The other 113 samples were another fish,” Oceana said in its statement about the study.

The group called for a “comprehensive and transparent” tracking system to address the problem. Such a system would have to track the fish “boat to plate” and be implemented nationwide.

Oceana said that additional measures also must be taken to ensure consumers aren’t duped into buying fraudulently labeled seafood. For instance, the group recommended “increased inspection and testing of seafood, specifically for mislabeling,” and also said that existing laws designed to protect consumers from fraudulently labeled seafood products must be better enforced in order to “reverse these disturbing trends.”

According to the group, better oversight and enforcement of the seafood industry wouldn’t just protect consumers from fraud, it would also benefit “every honest vendor and fisherman cheated in the process – to say nothing about the health of our oceans.”