CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Mislabeled fish is nothing new, it’s been happening for years around the world. But a new study out of Hawaii highlights the problem persists here in the U.S. And there may be no simple solution.
Wixter Market is a boutique seafood shop in Chicago that specializes in fish products from around the world. They’re hyper focused on making their customers get what they’re paying for.
“Make sure you get your fish from providers who value traceability,” said JP McIntyre of Wixter’s Market. “If you flip it around on the back we have a little icon with our traceability information.”
McIntyre says fish can be easily mislabeled — whether you’re buying it from a market or ordering it in a restaurant.
The real tricky thing is, it’s just almost impossible to know as a consumer,” he said.
More than 30% of fish is mislabeled on a national level, according to researchers.
A new study out of the University of Hawaii shows even in Honolulu, where seafood is vital to the local culture, about 1 in 5 pieces of seafood is mislabeled.
“The substitutions almost always involve less expensive species for more desirable species,” said University of Hawaii professor Peter Marko.
Whether it’s in a tropical location, or in the heart of a midwestern city.
“An unscrupulous producer would just see what the highest market price is for a particular fish and then the temptation would be there to sell one as the other for instance,” said McIntyre.
He says the problem may not even be an intentional misrepresentation by restaurants or distributors.
“If at the harvesting level they are passing off a fish under a different name it can go from harvest to sort of a regional distributor and then a restaurant would order it and they would serve it and many people in that supply chain could be operating under the best of intentions and the consumer still gets ultimately misled.”
One solution is to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of certain fish – for example, more expensive fish like Mahi Mahi has firmer flesh and is more flavorful than a fish like a swai — which can be used as a substitute and is a thinner filet and has a softer flesh and is less flavorful.