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July 26, 2012 / Admin

Holy Mackerel! Phony Fish

Yesterday, various new sources, including the Los Angeles Times and, reported on an investigation conducted by Oceana, an international organization working to protect the world’s ocean. Oceana collected 119 seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California and found widespread mislabeling. Among the key findings of the investigation are:

  • Overall, 55% of the samples collected (65 out of 119) were mislabeled according to  federal guidelines.
  •  Every single fish sold with the word “snapper” in the label (34 out of 34), was mislabeled according to federal guidelines and according to California law, only one “Pacific red snapper” was labeled properly.
  • Nearly nine out of every ten sushi samples were mislabeled.
  • Eight out of nine sushi samples labeled as “white tuna” were actually escolar, a snake mackerel species that carries a health warning for its ‘purgative effects”.

Oceana concluded that the majority of the mislabeled fish constituted economic fraud because a lower priced species was substituted for the desired species for economic gain. The mislabeling also poses health risks from allergens, contaminants or pathogens in the substituted species. For example, the FDA issued an advisory for methyl mercury in seafood to women of child bearing age to limit consumption of white tuna to six ounces per week. However, white tuna also contains healthy omega fatty acids.  Wanting the benefits of white tuna but not the detriments, a woman may choose to consume six ounces of white tuna per week in her sushi. However, the investigation found that escolar, which has been banned in Japan and Italy because it contains a naturally occurring toxin that causes severe gastrointestinal problems, was frequently substituted for white tuna.

These mislabeling, in addition to violating the branding requirements of the FDA and various California regulations, may also be independently actionable under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and the false advertising provisions of California’s Unfair Competition Law.

If you have purchased seafood that you know to be mislabeled, please contact Khorrami, LLP.

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