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ConsumerWatch: Are You Buying The Fish You Think You Are?

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Salmon filets. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Salmon filets. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

MONTEREY (CBS 5) – Oceana, a Monterey-based environmental advocacy group, is conducting DNA testing on dozens of fish purchased undercover here in the Bay Area to determine if they were labeled accurately at the time of sale.

Oceana’s Geoff Shester said the most common cases of fish mislabeling involve cheaper fish passed off as more expensive ones and farmed varieties being passed off as wild.

“A lot of what they’re telling you the seafood is, it actually isn’t,” Shester told ConsumerWatch.

The Bay Area test comes on the heels of similar DNA tests of fish purchased in other areas that found high rates of seafood fraud. A recent Oceana survey of fish purchased in Los Angeles found 55% of seafood tested was mislabeled. An Oceana survey of seafood purchased in Monterey found 36% of fish tested was mislabeled. Shester said the highest level of fraud was found in sushi bars, while the most accurate labeling was found in supermarkets.

“The classic issue is that consumers are paying too much,” Shester said. But, he said there are other concerns as well,  including that some mislabeled fish could be higher in contaminants.

So, who’s to blame?

Shester said seafood can change hands twenty to thirty times from the time it’s pulled out of the ocean to the time it ends up on your plate.

“What we’re finding is the restaurants themselves are being duped by their suppliers, and even the suppliers are being duped by someone else along the supply chain.”

Oceana’s results of the Bay Area tests should be available in about eight weeks.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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