'Today' show covers seafood mislabeling


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
December 10, 2012

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and its Better Seafood Board (BSB) got some national attention today, as part of a segment on seafood mislabeling featured on NBC’s “Today” show.

The segment, narrated by NBC reporter Anne Thompson, highlights a new study by conservation group Oceana, which accused restaurants and fish markets nationwide, including in New York City, of product mislabeling.

The report showed 58 percent of samples taken from New York were inaccurately labeled. In most cases, the report found, cheaper fish was being sold under the label of a more expensive species.

For example, the report found, what consumers thought was halibut and snapper was in fact the cheaper blueline tilefish, and sushi restaurants which said they were selling white tuna were found to in fact be selling escolar, a fish that is known for its laxative properties.

In addition to financial unfairness, the report identified some health risks, such as some varieties of fish with high mercury content being mislabeled, a practice that could place pregnant women at risk.

“The companies that do things right feel a disadvantage when either their competitors or their customers mislabel a product for financial gain,” NFI President John Connelly said in the televised report. “It’s just wrong.”

The BSB is a watchdog group the NFI has put together to bring more awareness to mislabeling, a problem which the report described as a perennial issue that demands consumers pay more attention to where their fish is coming from. All NFI members are required to become members of the BSB, and ensure that they are labeling their seafood in accordance with state and federal law.

“Consumers should ask their restaurant or retailer if they are a member of the Better Seafood Board and if the answer is no, they should ask why not?” BSB Secretary Lisa Weddig said in a statement.

This week, a similar mislabeling investigation by the Boston Globe identified a number of Boston-area restaurants which mislabeled fish offerings. The BSB, in response, praised the Globe’s attention to the matter, but in a statement, decried the paper’s blaming of a Massachusetts supplier, which the BSB did not find mislabeled anything.

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