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Report: 39 Percent Of Seafood Sold In NYC Mislabeled

FILE - Seafood for sale at a market. (Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

FILE – Seafood for sale at a market. (Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Large amounts of seafood being sold in grocery stores and other venues in New York City is mislabeled as something else, according to a new report.

The report was released Tuesday by the environmental group Oceana.

1010 WINS’ John Montone reports

Researchers tested 142 samples of seafood from fish markets, sushi bars, restaurants and stores and found that 39 percent of the fish sold was mislabeled.

EXTRA: Read The Full Report

Of the 81 retail outlets that were sampled, it found 58 percent sold mislabeled fish of lower quality. It said 13 different types of cheaper fish were sold as “red snapper,” including tilapia, white bass, ocean perch and other less valuable snappers.

According to the report, 94 percent of the “white tuna” was not tuna at all, but actually escolar — a snake mackerel that has a toxin said to cause intestinal issues for people who eat more than a small amount the fish.

All of the 16 sushi bars tested sold mislabeled fish, the report said.

“The reasons people may mislabel is, the obvious reason, economic gain,” said Dr. Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist with Oceana “If you’re selling expensive king salmon and it turns out to be farmed Atlantic salmon, somebody is making money on that.”

Warner said mislabeling fish can be dangerous, especially when it comes to health and conservation concerns.

“We found two instances of high mercury fish that are on the FDA’s do-not-eat list for woman of child-bearing age being passed off as halibut and red snapper,” she said. “It was a tilefish.”

The Restaurant Association issued a statement Tuesday in response to the report.

“It’s alarming to learn that many restaurants may not be getting the type of fish they order,” said spokesman Andrew Moesel. “Product sourcing is always a huge concern for all restaurants, and to see mislabeling on such a massive scale is extremely troubling. Even to a trained eye, it can be difficult to tell the difference between some types of fish. Restaurants need to be able to depend on their distributors to help them keep an honest relationship with the public. Hopefully, the industry and regulators can continue to work on ways to make that possible.”

Many whole sellers at the Fulton fish market in the Bronx said while their products are labeled properly, it’s not unheard of for restaurants to misrepresent their seafood.

“A lot of people, once it’s cooked and served with toppings, nobody knows the difference,” one seller said.

“There’s a few people who tend to stretch the truth sometimes,” said another. “But here, we sell legitimately and whatever you read on the label is what is it.”

The samples were taken from venues from across New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. They were collected between June and September of this year.

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