Yes, you read it well! Unfortunately, when you eat tuna, there there’s a good chance that what you eat is not what you think it is. To be more concrete, there is a type of fish called escolar that can cause serious digestive effects, including oily anal leakage. And the majority of fish labeled “white tuna” may actually be escolar!
These finding were revealed by a non-profit ocean protection group called Oceana. In addition, they also discovered that nearly 60 percent of “tuna” sold at restaurants and grocery stores is another type of fish entirely! Moreover, sushi restaurants were the worst of all!
Namely, Oceana published a 69- page report which revealed all heir devastating findings of a DNA testing they conducted on more than 1,200 fish samples across the US and found that one-third were mislabeled.
The situation was the worst at sushi restaurants, where74 percent of fish samples were mislabeled. This included every single sushi restaurant from which samples were tested, without exception for the ones in major metropolitan areas like Austin, New York, Chicago, and Washington DC.
When it comes to the mislabeling rates of different fish types, red snapper had the highest mislabeling rates, with 87 percent of “red snapper” samples that were not actually red snapper, and our favorite tuna was a close second, with 59 percent mislabeled.
The report of Oceana found that in many cases the mislabeled fish had been substituted for cheaper, less desirable and/or more readily available fish varieties. To be more concrete, here are the numbers of the results:
- 84 percent of “white tuna” sold in sushi venues was actually escolar, a fish associated with acute and serious digestive effects even if consumed just a couple of ounces
- 59 percent of tuna was some other type of fish
- Mislabeling was found in 27 of the 46 fish types tested (59 percent)
- 87 percent of fish sold as snapper was actually some other type of fish
- King mackerel and tile fish, two types of fish the FDA advises pregnant women and other sensitive groups to avoid due to dangerously high mercury content, were often the substitutions for grouper, halibut, and red snapper
Unbelievable: Only 1 Percent of Imported Seafood Is Tested for Fraud
After reading this, you surely ask yourself the question: How are so many seafood retailers getting away with selling mislabeled fish? The answer is simple: no one is minding the store. This clearly out-of-control situation may be explained with the numbers below:
more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, but only 1 percent of imports are inspected for fraud.
Regarding this issue, the report of Oceana claims:
“Our findings demonstrate that a comprehensive and transparent traceability system – one that tracks fish from boat to plate – must be established at the national level.
At the same time, increased inspection and testing of our seafood, specifically for mislabeling, and stronger federal and state enforcement of existing laws combatting fraud are needed to reverse these disturbing trends.
Our government has a responsibility to provide more information about the fish sold in the U.S., as seafood fraud harms not only consumers’ wallets, but also every honest vendor and fisherman cheated in the process – to say nothing of the health of our oceans.”
A Fact More To Avoid Tuna: It’s Typically Loaded With Mercury
Naturally, fish has always been part of all healthy diets since it is the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Nevertheless, as levels of pollution have increased, this health treasure of a food has become less and less viable as a primary source of beneficial fats. Tuna is the most endangered type, since it tends to be a higher mercury fish.
The results of a study from the U.S. Geological Survey showed that all tuna tested contained fairly high amounts of mercury. If this is the case, the contamination may be even worse in restaurants. So this is a reason more to avoid eating restaurant tuna.
Another separate study also brought unpleasant results: namely, toxicological testing revealed that tuna sold in restaurants actually contained higher amounts of mercury than the store-bought variety. Restaurants tend to favor certain species of tuna, such as bluefin akami and bigeye tuna, which had significantly higher levels of mercury than bluefin toro and yellowfin tuna.
One explanation is that restaurants tend to buy larger sized fish, which in turn contain larger concentrations of mercury due to their size. Remember, the larger the fish the longer it has lived, and the more time it has had to bioaccumulate toxins like mercury from the ocean.
Moreover, mercury tends to accumulate to a greater degree in muscle than in fat, rendering these highly prized, leaner species of tuna more susceptible to high contamination.
Moreover, 80 Percent of Salmon May Also Be Mislabeled
Sad but true, the red snapper and tuna are not the only fish types that are subject of mislabeling. Randy Hartnell, the founder-president of Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics, in a interview explains that as much as 70 to 80 percent of the fish marked “wild” salmon were actually farmed. This includes restaurants, which leads to the sad reality that 90-95 percent of salmon in restaurants is farmed, but listed in the menu as “wild” and of course, paid as being so.
Fortunately, we here below list a few tips that can be of great help in determining whether the salmon is authentic:
- Do not buy Atlantic salmon, as all salmon labeled “Atlantic Salmon” currently comes from fish farms.
- In restaurants, mislabeled salmon will typically be described as “wild” but not “wild Alaskan.” This is because authentic “wild Alaskan” is easier to trace, and the term “wild” leaves more space to be misused. In many ways, it is very similar to the highly abused “natural” designation.
- Since Alaskan salmon is not allowed to be farmed, canned salmon labeled “Alaskan Salmon” is a good bet.
- If you find sockeye salmon, it’s bound to be wild, since sockeye salmon cannot be farmed. You can tell sockeye salmon from other salmon by its color. It’s bright red as opposed to pink. The reason again for this bright red color is its superior astaxanthin content. Sockeye salmon has one of the highest concentrations of astaxanthin of any food.
- Ask the seafood clerk or waiter when you buy your fish where the fish is from. If it’s wild, they will have paid more for it, so they’re likely to understand the value proposition. Since it’s a selling point, they will know where it came from. If they don’t have an answer for you, it’s a red flag that it’s farmed, or worse… The US Food and Drug Administration is moving forward with approving genetically engineered salmonto be sold, and as you know, GE foods still do not need to be labeled in the US.
Tips to Help Determine if Seafood Is Mislabeled
Frankly, it is very difficult for the average diner to determine if the tuna or red snapper in the sushi is actually what it’s claimed to be. However, there are some ways to protect yourself against rampant seafood fraud and determine if the seafood is mislabeled:
- Always be sure to ask about all important things concerning the fish you are buying, including what kind of fish it is, if it is wild or farm raised, and where, when and how it was caught
- Bear in mind that if the price is too good to be true, it probably is, and you are likely purchasing a completely different species than what is on the label.
- Whenever you can, purchase the whole fish, which makes it more difficult to swap one species for another.
Tips to Stay Healthy
We are all aware that the world we are now living in is constantly being contaminated with mercury, heavy metals, and chemicals like dioxins, PCBs, and other agricultural chemicals that wind up in the environment. So, the environment which is far from healthy nowadays, changes the rules.
Our advice is to get your needed omega-3 requirements rather from a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 supplement like krill oil more often, instead of fish. Moreover, whenever you consume fish, make sure to also take chlorella tablets when possible.
The chlorella is a potent mercury binder and if taken with the fish will help bind the mercury before you are able to absorb it, so it can be safely excreted in your stool. In addition to chlorella, this also includes zeolite (green clay) and fermented vegetables.
Nevertheless, there are always exceptions when you can only benefit from the consumption of fish.
For instance, the nutritional benefits of wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon still outweigh any potential contamination.
It has a short life cycle, only about three years, so the risk of accumulating high amounts of mercury and other toxins is reduced. Additionally, bioaccumulation of toxins is also reduced by the fact that it doesn’t feed on other, already contaminated, fish.
Another win-win situation – lower contamination risk and higher nutritional value is in cases of smaller fish with short lifecycles, which also tend to be better alternatives in terms of fat content.
A general guideline is that the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will have accumulated. So, those who are seafood lovers should always choose most of their fish from this group, which includes sardines, herring and anchovies.
In contrast, larger fish tend to live longer and have the highest contamination levels, so the most important tip is to avoid them. This group includes tuna (tuna steaks, sushi, canned tuna), Marlin, shark, pike, walleye, sword fish, white croacker, sea basss and largemouth bass and halibut.