Ocean Discovery study counters mislabeling severity

Published on
September 11, 2013

Mislabeling of seafood by restaurants in San Diego, Calif., is not as rampant as was reported in the oft-cited Oceana report on U.S. seafood fraud published earlier this year, a new study found.

However, the DNA testing on seafood samples from the restaurants — along with interviews with the restaurant owners and chefs — was conducted at a handful of eateries that serve only sustainable seafood.

The San Diego-based Ocean Discovery Institute and Frequentz, a provider of traceability and information management technologies, teamed up to conduct DNA testing on fish at seven restaurants, including Harney Sushi, Alchemy, Farm House, Mitch’s Seafood and Truluck. Employing the help of students, the organizations tested DNA samples from Yellowtail amberjack, bigeye tuna, Atlantic salmon, sockeye salmon, and moustache grouper.

They found that only one sample out of the ten species tested was labeled somewhat incorrectly. Instead of moustache grouper, the restaurant dubbed the fish “pink grouper” on its menu. Conversely, the Oceana report found that an average of 52 percent of seafood sold in Southern California was mislabeled.

“Pink grouper has a different name in North California and South California. Plus, these two species look very similar off the boat,” Melissa Katigbak, after-school programs manager for the Ocean Discovery Instititute, told SeafoodSource.

In addition, 100 percent of the restaurant executives interviewed knew the fish tested by its common name, 100 percent knew where their fish was purchased and 100 percent educate their staff about fish sold in the restaurant.

“The more we talk to people in fisheries, the more we see them working together and creating more of a conversation around things like this. It used to be very taboo to talk about it,” Katigbak said.

At the same time, only 30 percent of the restaurants knew where the fish tested was caught. “All the restaurants know which fisherman or distributor the fish is bought from, but they don’t know which waters,” Katigbak said.

After participating in the study, 70 percent of the restaurants want to expand the DNA testing to other fish or restaurants. “I think this will build more interest for traceability,” Katigbak said.

Contributing Editor



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