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View Full Version : Mislabeling of fish at restaurants may be widespread, studies suggest



PoliCon
04-03-2011, 09:38 PM
By Scott Travis and Heather McPherson, Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel

12:02 a.m. EDT, April 3, 2011

The white tuna on your plate at your favorite restaurant may not be tuna at all, but a similar tasting and looking white fish. Duping consumers into paying top dollar for a low-cost substitute fish is fraud. And it's happening with other pricey seafood items as well.

Last year, 186 restaurants in the state were cited by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for mislabeling their fish. Thirty-two of those were in Central Florida.

"I am baffled that a chef dedicated to the trade tries to pass off fraudulent fish," said chef Kevin Fonzo of K restaurant in Orlando's College Park neighborhood. "If you can't afford grouper or can't get it, don't put it on your menu."

Adds Mitchell Rice of Gary's Seafood, an Orlando-based wholesaler: "The risk isn't worth it. Restaurateurs can lose everything. They can pay a fine, but they still have lost their customer's trust."


In most of the citations, escolar masqueraded as tuna, tilapia stood in for red snapper, panga and emperor fillets were on menus as grouper, and imitation crab meat replaced authentic crab.

Even with more vigilant consumers and inspectors, mislabeling continues to plague the restaurant industry. For example, a Nova Southeastern University genetics class this semester tested fish advertised as white tuna from 10 sushi restaurants in Broward, Miami Dade and Palm Beach counties. The results showed eight were improperly labeled, said Professor Mahmood Shivji. A similar study last fall involving 10 restaurants in South Florida and Orlando, showed all 10 served escolar that was sold as white tuna.

"My sense is that this is an unspoken industry standard; that white tuna is escolar even though it's not legal to call it that," Shivji said. "It may be such a common practice that restaurants don't even think about it."

In fact, websites for several seafood wholesalers would suggest white tuna and escolar are synonymous, even though escolar isn't a type of tuna. One website says escolar is known as "white tuna" on the East Coast; another advertises " 'escolar' or 'white tuna' shipped to your door."

The cost of fuel and the limited availability of some fish have driven up the price for some seafood, said Rice. Grouper, for example, wholesales for almost $20 a pound.

Buyers and consumers can become fixated on grouper and overlook other fish that cost significantly less. Golden tile, white striped bass, striped bass flounder and cobia cost less than half of grouper but are equally flavorful.

For some consumers, fish substitutions can be more than a deceptive hit to the wallet. Escolar, an oily stand-in for white tuna, can cause gastrointestinal distress in some when not properly cleaned and cooked.

The state can fine restaurants up to $1,000 for mislabeling seafood. Still, some restaurants have been cited multiple times for the same violation, including Fuji Sushi Japanese Cuisine in Winter Park, which was cited in 2008 and 2009 for passing escolar off as white tuna. No one from the restaurant would comment on the violations.

"The fines are not strong enough and many restaurants probably see them as a cost of doing business," said Bob Jones, executive director of the Southeastern Fisheries Association, a trade group that has spoken out against the practice. "But it's consumer fraud. Period. There's no other way to say it."

The national picture

Seafood substitution has been a growing national concern in recent years.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-orlando-fish-fraud-20110403,0,101118.story

Rockntractor
04-03-2011, 09:41 PM
You can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish!

fettpett
04-03-2011, 09:47 PM
this is totally not worth the loss of reputation for these restaurants. It's completely moronic.

megimoo
04-04-2011, 01:15 AM
By Scott Travis and Heather McPherson, Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel

12:02 a.m. EDT, April 3, 2011

The white tuna on your plate at your favorite restaurant may not be tuna at all, but a similar tasting and looking white fish. Duping consumers into paying top dollar for a low-cost substitute fish is fraud. And it's happening with other pricey seafood items as well.

Last year, 186 restaurants in the state were cited by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for mislabeling their fish. Thirty-two of those were in Central Florida.

"I am baffled that a chef dedicated to the trade tries to pass off fraudulent fish," said chef Kevin Fonzo of K restaurant in Orlando's College Park neighborhood. "If you can't afford grouper or can't get it, don't put it on your menu."

Adds Mitchell Rice of Gary's Seafood, an Orlando-based wholesaler: "The risk isn't worth it. Restaurateurs can lose everything. They can pay a fine, but they still have lost their customer's trust."


In most of the citations, escolar masqueraded as tuna, tilapia stood in for red snapper, panga and emperor fillets were on menus as grouper, and imitation crab meat replaced authentic crab.

Even with more vigilant consumers and inspectors, mislabeling continues to plague the restaurant industry. For example, a Nova Southeastern University genetics class this semester tested fish advertised as white tuna from 10 sushi restaurants in Broward, Miami Dade and Palm Beach counties. The results showed eight were improperly labeled, said Professor Mahmood Shivji. A similar study last fall involving 10 restaurants in South Florida and Orlando, showed all 10 served escolar that was sold as white tuna.

"My sense is that this is an unspoken industry standard; that white tuna is escolar even though it's not legal to call it that," Shivji said. "It may be such a common practice that restaurants don't even think about it."

In fact, websites for several seafood wholesalers would suggest white tuna and escolar are synonymous, even though escolar isn't a type of tuna. One website says escolar is known as "white tuna" on the East Coast; another advertises " 'escolar' or 'white tuna' shipped to your door."

The cost of fuel and the limited availability of some fish have driven up the price for some seafood, said Rice. Grouper, for example, wholesales for almost $20 a pound.

Buyers and consumers can become fixated on grouper and overlook other fish that cost significantly less. Golden tile, white striped bass, striped bass flounder and cobia cost less than half of grouper but are equally flavorful.

For some consumers, fish substitutions can be more than a deceptive hit to the wallet. Escolar, an oily stand-in for white tuna, can cause gastrointestinal distress in some when not properly cleaned and cooked.

The state can fine restaurants up to $1,000 for mislabeling seafood. Still, some restaurants have been cited multiple times for the same violation, including Fuji Sushi Japanese Cuisine in Winter Park, which was cited in 2008 and 2009 for passing escolar off as white tuna. No one from the restaurant would comment on the violations.

"The fines are not strong enough and many restaurants probably see them as a cost of doing business," said Bob Jones, executive director of the Southeastern Fisheries Association, a trade group that has spoken out against the practice. "But it's consumer fraud. Period. There's no other way to say it."

The national picture

Seafood substitution has been a growing national concern in recent years.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-orlando-fish-fraud-20110403,0,101118.storyAlways eat your tuna raw at a Japanese Sashimi joint.While you're at it try the Sea Urchins and Squid-ink Udon noodle salad,it'll put some lead in your pencil !

Odysseus
04-04-2011, 09:59 AM
Always eat your tuna raw at a Japanese Sashimi joint.While you're at it try the Sea Urchins and Squid-ink Udon noodle salad,it'll put some lead in your pencil !

And do not order Coney Island Whitefish. Ever. :D