Food News

Lies! South Florida Sushi Restaurants Mislabeled White and Yellowfin Tuna 100 Percent of the Time

The next time you go for happy-hour sushi in Miami, there is a 100 percent chance you will not receive that roll of white tuna sushi even though you paid for it, according to a study released yesterday by Oceana, an ocean conservation group.

Other mislabelings include yellowfin tuna and whitefish. In the new report, titled Persistent Seafood Fraud Found in South Florida, researchers draw their results from 96 random samples from 60 sushi venues collected between December 2011 and January 2012 in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach areas.

The report also shows that sushi venues mislabeled their seafood 58 percent of the time, restaurants 36 percent of the time, and grocery stores 8 percent.

Other key findings: Red snapper was mislabeled six out of seven times, with the only correct labeling coming from a sushi venue. Grouper was mislabeled only 16 percent of the time but had one of the most "egregious" substitutions: king mackerel, a fish that federal and state authorities advise pregnant women not to eat because of high mercury levels, according to the report.

When purchasing grouper from stores in Florida, look for the "Fresh From Florida" logo on the package, which is required by law, or simply labeled "grouper" if it comes from other regions.

Another mislabeled fish was Atlantic salmon. It was wrong 19 percent of the time and substituted for wild or king salmon, with Atlantic being farm-raised under controlled conditions. Wild and King salmon is caught in the wild.

Escolar, a fish that can cause health problems if consumed, was substituted for a fish labeled as whitefish or white tuna. Overall, Oceana found that 31 percent of seafood in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area was mislabeled.

"Not only does species substitution cheat consumers, it also can have conservation and health impacts," wrote the study's authors -- Kimberly Warner, Walker Timme, Beth Lowell, and Margot Stiles.

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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky