Boston Globe Investigation on Fish Misidentification Leads to a Call for Better Regulation

Is this tilapia or red snapper?

Bet you paid a pretty penny for that Chilean sea bass with the paprika lemon cream sauce. Or how about your $15 specialty sushi roll? You probably think you’re eating the fish you saw in the menu description. Even if you decided to splurge and get something nicer than tilapia at the grocer, you still may be eating tilapia.

Last week the Boston Globe released a series on its five-month long investigation on fish misidentification, which revealed that nearly half of the 183 fish samples from 134 restaurants, grocery stores and seafood markets in Massachusetts were correctly identified. This means that consumers, in many cases, were often eating a cheaper fish than what they actually paid for.

Watch the Globe’s report:

Why does fish misidentification happen? The Globe reported that restaurants and grocers make the error on purpose for financial gain as well as inadvertently due to lack of knowledge. Ultimately though, a lack of regulation in the industry perpetuates fish misidentification, because food services can often get away with it.

Due to the fact that many of the fish look alike and can taste alike to those of us who are not ichthyologists — and even these fish scientists may be prone to misidentification when the scales are removed — the Globe turned to DNA analysis in their investigation.

After the Globe’s investigation was released, officials in the state said they would improve oversight:

“Fish mislabeling has become an accepted practice,’’ said state Representative Ted Speliotis, the Danvers Democrat and cochairman of the joint committee. “There appears to be overlapping responsibility but no one is taking action. This needs to change.’’

[...]

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said that it wants to determine what role the state can play in combating the misnaming of seafood, and Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, said her agency also will get involved in the issue.

“When consumers purchase a specific type of fish, they expect to be getting what they paid for,’’ Anthony said. She said her office will work with state and law enforcement officials, and with restaurants and fish wholesalers, “to identify ways to help restore public confidence.’’

According to the Globe, Massachusetts ranks forth in the nation as a seafood provider.

[H/T Mother Nature Network]