What you see on the sushi menu isn’t necessarily what you get.
A whopping 74% of fish sold at sushi venues in the US is mislabeled, meaning you’re being served a completely different fish than what you ordered. That’s according to a 2013 study by ocean conservation group Oceana.
So how do you know what’s real and what’s fake? New technology that tracks fishing boat practices could increase transparency in the seafood industry. But until that becomes mainstream, it’s up to you, the consumer, to be alert.
Here are four types of sushi you should watch out for if you spot them on a menu, based on Oceana’s findings:
1. Wild Salmon
Salmon is actually one of your best bets in avoiding fake fish when it comes to sushi. But salmon is often labelled “wild” when it is in fact farmed, which allows them to charge more.
2. Alaskan or Pacific Salmon
Atlantic salmon, which is farmed globally and year-round, is often labelled as Pacific or Alaskan salmon, which is harder to find and less likely to be farmed.
3. White Tuna
Oceana reports that 71% of all tuna sold at sushi venues is mislabeled. The most commonly faked tuna is white tuna.
White tuna is often swapped for escolar, which is sometimes called the “Ex-Lax Fish,” according to Inside Edition, because it can cause intestinal problems. The replacement of white tuna with escolar is so common (85% of samples tested by Oceana), that many see the two as interchangeable.
However, this fish swapping is actually illegal (but infrequently enforced) in the US — despite the fact that many casual sushi lovers have only ever eaten escolar when ordering white tuna.
4. Red Snapper
A whopping 92% of all snapper tested by Oceana was mislabeled. Oceana detected 33 different species that were falsely sold as snapper, including rockfish, tilapia, and different kinds of snapper (yellowtail snapper labelled as red snapper, for example).
The problem has gotten so bad that New York sushi restaurant Sushi Nakazawa refuses to serve red snapper because the risk of fraud from suppliers is too high.
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