A recent study shows that over 40% of wild salmon bought off-season in stores and restaurants is being fraudulently mislabeled.
Oceana attacks wild Alaskan salmon labeling
Founded in 2001, Oceana is the world’s largest ocean conservation and advocacy organization which looks to further their aims through direct policy decisions and expects to see change within 3-5 years of its actions.
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In a new study undertaken in 2013-2014, the group is now saying that when consumers order “wild salmon,” especially from Alaska at restaurants and grocery stores, the likelihood of it being both wild and from Alaska is not nearly as high as labeling would suggest.
During the two years of the study, researchers for the group accumulated 82 salmon samples in New York, Chicago, Washington and Virginia. The researchers then performed DNA testing on the fish and their findings placed nearly 50% (43%) as fake with overly high price tags.
The bulk (two-thirds) of these cases involved in this bait and switch had retailers and restaurants selling farmed Atlantic salmon as wild Alaskan salmon.
Not such a prolific problem during salmon season
However, a study conducted earlier this summer when wild salmon are running, showed that false labeling is considerably less rampant with only 7% of the studies collected and testing showing maleficence. I should be noted that your average restaurant or fishmonger likely doesn’t perform the same DNA testing and may have also been duped by distributors and simply passed on the fraud.
Of the cases where mislabeling (or fraudulent) occurred the salmon’s share of these cases were found in restaurants likely owing to the fact that supermarkets are required to provide more information to regulators.
“We couldn’t pinpoint in the supply chain where the mislabeling occurred,” said Dr. Kimberly Warner, senior scientist for Oceana. “We know it happens at all steps.”
How to fix the problem?
Oceana, with study in hand, is calling for new regulations that would make it easier to trace the salmon (and other fish) back through the supply chain.
However, at least one industry group disagrees feeling that enforcement of existing laws is a better way to protect consumers.
“If there is evidence of fraudulent mislabeling, law enforcement should be involved. Cracking down on these types of practices is the only practical way to stop them.”
Warner also pointed out the obvious and suggested that consumers should simply avoid ordering wild salmon out of season.