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Snapper Substitution Rampant in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (April 20, 2012)—Is that the snapper you were looking for? Doubtful, according to a DNA survey conducted in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California. In May and December, the group Oceana collected 119 seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues, only to find nearly nine out of 10 samples were mislabeled.

In 34 samples of so-called snapper, every fish was mislabeled, according to the report.

"Consumers buying fish labeled as 'red snapper' or any other type of snapper in Southern California could receive anything from tilapia to pollock, in addition to any one of the overfished or vulnerable rockfish species," the report found.

California law allows 13 species of rockfish to be labeled as "Pacific red snapper" but federal law does not.

Sometimes, a cheaper type of fish was being sold as a more expensive one. Other times, a fish with a health warning, escolar, was sold as a different type of fish.

The report recommends increased inspection for seafood mislabeling "to discourage dishonest practices along the increasingly obscure seafood supply chain."

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits species substitution, which implies one cannot misrepresent one species as another.  Regardless of the government mandate, the practice of species substitution continues to run rampant.

DNA testing of seafood has been sweeping the country since last year.

Consumer Reports, which conducted its research in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, discovered 18% of the seafood samples, collected from restaurants and retail stores, were mislabeled.

Boston Globe reported 48% of the fish it collected from Boston grocery stores, seafood markets, and restaurants were sold with the wrong species name.


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