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|