"Ex-lax fish" — and other species you didn't order — shows up in your sushi way too often
Seafood labels are pretty damn fishy, according to a new report.
Published on Wednesday, an analysis of seafood from Oceana, an international ocean conservation advocacy group, reveals that worldwide, seafood is mislabeled 19% of the time. That's 1 out of every 5 labels.
The study: Researchers tested 25,000 samples worldwide and also analyzed more than 200 studies from 55 countries. All continents except Antartica were studied.
The results: Fraud occurs in all parts of the supply chain, a press release from Oceana stated. This includes: importing, exporting, distributing, packaging, retail and wholesale.
The results look pretty damning for fish lovers in the U.S. The report stated the fish fraud rate in the U.S. is 28%, higher than the worldwide average of 19%, but lower than the 2013 rate in the U.S., 33%.
These aren't innocent mistakes — the fish industry regularly dupes consumers into paying more, Oceana noted. Roughly 65% of the studies in the meta-analysis had "clear evidence of economic motivation," according to the press release.
Fish fraud puts your health at risk. Around 58% of the fake fish were species that pose certain health risks. For example, investigators at Oceana found 50 cases where restaurants claimed to be selling "white tuna" in sushi but were actually serving escolar, a fish associated with gastrointestinal problems.
Escolar is a buttery-tasting fish that contains a wax that can't be digested by some humans, leading to the nickname "ex-lax fish," Mother Jones noted — not quite as kid-friendly as Dr. Seuss' One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.
Not only is fish fraud potentially bad for our bodies, but it can put certain species in danger. In 2015, a restaurant in Santa Monica, California, was found serving meat from sei whales, an endangered species, in its sushi. It had labeled the sushi as "fatty tuna," the Oceana report noted. The Hump, the name of the restaurant in question, has since closed, and the two sushi chefs implicated were slapped with fines, Eater reported. Justice for the whales!
What's a conscientious seafood lover to do in a world flooded with fish fraud? The Seafood Watch, a watchdog group that helps consumers make sustainable choices about fish, has an app that highlights businesses with sound fish practices. The app has over 2,000 recommendations on farmed and wild seafood.
So you can eat one fish, two fish, red fish and blue fish... just try your best to avoid that ex-lax fish.