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I-Team: When you buy seafood, you don't always get what you ordered

Four restaurants fail our test

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CINCINNATI - Seafood lovers out there: How do you know you're really getting what you order from a restaurant or a market?

You order red snapper but you're served Tilapia. Or you buy grouper and you get king mackerel.

This happens more often than you may think. Oceana conducted a massive study on fish mislabeling between 2010 and 2012, collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retailers across the country. DNA testing found that about one-third of the samples were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

The I-Team put Cincinnati restaurants and grocery stores to the test.

We purchased a variety of samples from 15 local retailers and sent them to be DNA-tested by the same lab used by Oceana, at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

The Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding (CCDB) found four of our 15 samples were mislabeled, according to FDA guidelines.

See who passed and who failed below.

Grilled Snapper from Washington Platform was determined to be Iridescent Shark, a species of Shark Catfish. Washington Platform owner Jon Diebold told the I-Team, "Due to market availability of fresh fish stock, it is sometimes necessary to substitute alternate fish types, of similar characteristics, with some menu items. We use 'top of the line,' wholesome products, from approved sources, at all times."

Pacific Cod from Mitchell's Fish Market turned out to be Atlantic Cod. According to Mitchell's, "Once discovered, we took immediate action to correct this and all of our cod is properly listed as Atlantic."

Read Mitchell Fish Market's complete statement at http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/719079/mitchells-fish-market-complete-statement.pdf

Chilean Sea Bass from the Fresh Market and Bonefish Grill was found to be a close relative, the Antarctic Toothfish. "These two species have overlapping distributions and could be a simple clerical error by the fisherman," said Dr. Tyler Zemlak, Director of Business Development for the CCDB.

Bonefish Grill released this statement to the I-Team: "We unknowingly received Antarctic Toothfish, a close relative of the Patagonian Toothfish, from our vendor. The vendor was initially unaware of the error, but upon checking their records more thoroughly – at our request – realized that they sent us Antarctic Toothfish.  The vendor assures us this will not happen again. Bonefish Grill specifies the use of Patagonian Toothfish, which the FDA approves to be labeled as Chilean Sea Bass. We would never knowingly misrepresent a species of fish on our menu."

If fish mislabeling bothers you, remember it may not be the retailer's fault. Oceana says without stricter oversight and inspections, it's almost impossible to determine where along the seafood chain the mislabeling takes place, whether it's on the boat, on the docks or in the kitchen.

Dr. Kimberly Warner co-authored the three-year-long study and offered advice on what seafood customers can do to protect themselves.

"You can speak up. We had over 500 chefs sign a petition asking for traceable seafood. Talk to the waiter. Talk to the chefs. Ask, 'Are you sure this is the fish that I'm ordering?' At the store you can ask questions of the people who are selling the seafood.

"Some restaurants and some grocers are starting to sell traceable seafood. If the consumer asks for this, the industry will respond and so will the government, I believe," Warner said.

Read Oceana's February 2013 report at http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/719078/national-seafood-fraud-testing-results.pdf

Read Jason Law's entire interview with Dr. Kimberly Warner at http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/719111/jason-laws-interview-with-dr-kimberly-warner.pdf

RETAILER   WHAT WE THOUGHT WE WERE BUYING   WAS IT? (According to the lab)
REMKE, 6920 Burlington Pike, Florence   Cod Loins (Clerk said "Alaskan;" label said "Wild Caught China")   YES
THE FRESH MARKET, 7888 Montgomery Rd   Chilean Sea Bass   NO, it was identified as Antarctic Toothfish, a closely related species
MEIJER, 6550 Harrison Ave   Skinless Atlantic Salmon, Chile Farm Raised   YES
WHOLE FOODS, 2693 Edmondson Rd   Wild American Red Snapper   YES
KROGER, 5830 Harrison Ave.   Snapper (Label said "Wild Caught in Indonesia;" clerk said "Red" Snapper, receipt said "Red")   YES
JOE'S CRAB SHACK, 25 Fairfield Ave, Bellevue   Grilled Snapper (Server said "Red")   YES
WASHINGTON PLATFORM, 1000 Elm St.   Grilled Snapper (Server said "Red")   NO, it was identified as Iridescent Shark, a species of Shark Catfish
MITCHELL'S FISH MARKET, 1 Levee Way #2129, Newport   Pacific Cod   NO, Atlantic Cod
BONEFISH GRILL, 2737 Madison Road   Chilean Sea Bass   NO, it was identified as Antarctic Toothfish, a closely related species.
RED LOBSTER, 8220 Montgomery Road   Salmon (server said "Atlantic")   YES
CHART HOUSE, 405 Riverboat Row, Newport   Snapper Hemingway (Server said "Snapper raised in the gulf")   YES
JEFF RUBY'S ‘THE PRECINCT', 311 Delta Ave.   Yellow Fin Tuna   YES
McCORMICK & SCHMICK'S, 21 E 5th St   King Salmon   YES
THE ANCHOR, 1401 Race St.   Alaskan Halibut   YES
CAPTAIN D'S SEAFOOD KITCHEN, 7000 Reading Road   Wild Alaskan Salmon   YES

 

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