A new report out from the conservation group Oceana reveals widespread mislabeling of fish for sale in restaurants (and to a lesser extent grocery stores) around the country. In southern California, most of the fish in their sample was mislabeled, and, even in the “good” cities of Seattle and Portland, basically one fish in five was mislabeled.
The fish most likely to be phony are sold as “snapper” or “white tuna,” while salmon is the order that’s most likely to give you actual salmon. In many cases, you may say, “Who cares?” A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and if people like what they’re eating, who cares if it’s really snapper or not? But, as Oceana notes, some of the common substitutions have substantial health implications. “White tuna,” for example, is often really escolar and eating it “can have immediate and serious digestive effects for some people who eat more than a few ounces, which is why the FDA advises against the sale of this species, and other countries have banned it outright.” Similarly, in the New York area at least tilefish is often sold as “snapper” even though tilefish is on the list of high-mercury-content fish that pregnant women and other vulnerable populations should avoid.