Colleen O’Brien: Seafood fraud, what is it and how to avoid it

Feb 16, 2024, 6:23 AM | Updated: 10:56 am

seafood fraud...

Inspectors of veterinary services and fraud inspect seafood products. (Photo: Martin Bureau/Getty Images)

(Photo: Martin Bureau/Getty Images)

Seafood fraud — the mislabeling of seafood in order to boost profits — has become rampant nationally, with anywhere between 16 to 75% of seafood sold in the country being mislabeled, according to the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School.

For example, one of the most common kinds of seafood misrepresented is white fish. Red snapper, a higher-priced fish, is often just tilapia.

“Some common examples include swapping out a more expensive fish for a lower value substitute, mislabeling the origin of seafood or misrepresenting the weight of the seafood and charging consumers more for less product,” Allyson Chiu, a climate reporter for the Washington Post who reported on seafood fraud last week, explained on Seattle’s Morning News.

More on seafood in WA: Invasive European green crab could spell disaster for Washington’s seafood industry

Packaged seafood should note the product’s country of origin, Chiu said. If it doesn’t, she suggested to simply walk away or ask deeper questions because a country of origin doesn’t always mean what you think it does. It could be the actual country of origin or just where the fish was last processed.

“Where does it come from? How was it caught or farmed? How much does it cost? And is it certified by a sustainability program?” Chiu asked hypothetically. “All of this information can help you make a decision about whether what you’re buying is actually what it says it is.”

More frequent seafood buyers may be able to eyeball the authenticity of a seafood product. The Pacific Northwest is home to different types of salmon as an example, with many residents and locals potentially able to tell or make an educated guess when a fish is farmed or wild. Farmed fish will have a more zebra-like pattern with the fatty layers more pronounced. Wild salmon has more muscle than fat.

The good news is that a lot of our seafood comes from local producers, or from Alaska.

“The fisheries in Alaska are certified as sustainable and there is a lot of work being done there to ensure that the seafood is what it is,” Chiu said.

More from Colleen O’Brien: Good news for jobs amid massive layoffs — AI engineers

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Colleen O’Brien: Seafood fraud, what is it and how to avoid it