South Florida seafood: Something smells fishy


If you think you’re a smart shopper who always gets what you pay for, you may be surprised the next time you go shopping for your favorite seafood.

The Oceana Foundation, a Marine Conservation group, conducted an investigation into the alleged seafood fraud taking place around South Florida, and found that consumers are not always getting what they pay for when they go to local restaurants and markets in their community. The study follows a nationwide effort to identify what South Floridians are really eating and to make sure it’s as healthy as possible.

In an earlier testing outside of South Florida, fish were fraudulently labeled more than 50 percent of the time. South Florida’s results were somewhat better.

“The results are actually disturbing,” said Oceana’s South Florida program director Duston Cranor. “Out of 96 samples from 60 businesses, we found nearly 31 percent were mislabeled — that’s nearly one in three samples.”

Pinecrest seafood lover Rudy Lleonart blames the tough financial times for the reason as to why local distributors and restaurant operators sometimes intentionally mislead the public, and adds he is “not surprised knowing how some businesses try to get away with low quality fish.”

Local findings identified the most common mislabeled fish as snapper, grouper and salmon. The most frequently misidentified seafood, with 100 percent of the white tuna being tested, is called escolar, which is a mackerel that experts say can sometimes cause severe stomach cramps.

Dr. Mahmood Shivji, a marine genetics expert at Nova Southeastern University, said, “It has what I’ll call waxy esters in it and that is really a chemical that causes G-I distress if you eat too much. You can get sick from that depending on the individual.”

It’s estimated that less than one percent of the seafood imported in the United States actually is inspected to know what it really is.

With a statistic like this, consumers should be advised to buy whole fish whenever possible in order to better know what they’re actually eating. While mislabeling seafood is against the law, there have been very few charges filed by state or federal prosecutors against the people responsible. In a lot of cases, local distributors and restaurant operators may not be aware that they too are being scammed.

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