It may say tuna on the menu but 41 per cent of the tuna samples tested by Oceana Canada didn’t turn out to really be tuna. (Pixabay)

Is that really tuna? Study suggests 44% of Canadian seafood mislabelled

Vancouver was the best of five cities surveyed, with only 25% of seafood labelled incorrectly

Nearly half of the seafood sold in Canada is mislabelled, a new study from an oceans protection group suggests.

The Oceana Canada study, released Tuesday, looked at 400 seafood samples in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Halifax, and Ottawa, and found 44 per cent wasn’t what it appeared to be, and that it was nearly impossible to track from origin to plate.

The group took aim at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s new guidelines, which will come into effect next year, saying the regulations lack measures to deter “seafood fraud.”

“As a result, Canada lags well behind international best practices,” it said.

The group pointed to the United States’ new boat-to-border traceability for at-risk species as one way to track seafood from origin to plate in an attempt to tackle fraud.

It urged Canada to begin tracing all seafood from boat to plate, require catch documentation, improve verification measures and increase consumer information.

However, in an email to Black Press Media, the CFIA said its new regulations would “improve traceability requirements throughout the supply chain, including for seafood products.”

The agency said that it works with different levels of government, scientists and the seafood industry to ensure Canadians can trust that they’re getting the right fish.

“The CFIA undertakes inspections as well as compliance promotion activities and provides various tools, such as the CFIA fish list and industry labelling tool, to help companies verify that their food labels meet all the regulatory requirements,” the agency said.

“In cases of non-compliance, the CFIA takes appropriate action.”

Of the five cities studied by Oceana Canada, Vancouver did the best in labelling seafood correctly, with only 26 per cent mislabelled.

READ MORE: Quarter of seafood sold in Metro Vancouver is mislabelled: researchers

It was followed by Halifax with 38 per cent, Ottawa with 45 per cent, Toronto with 59 per cent and Victoria last on the list with 67 per cent.

The study focused on the nine species of seafood that are most commonly mislabelled.

None of the snapper, yellowtail and butterfish samples inspected were what they claimed to be. Snapper was typically labelled rockfish and tilapia, yellowtail was Japanese amberjack, and butterfish was escolar.

Other fish, such as cod and halibut, were somewhat better off, but even the best results saw 18 per cent of salmon mislabelled.

The study suggests 64 per cent of restaurants and retailers sold mislabelled fish.

The problem was worse in restaurants, where 52 per cent of the seafood was mislabelled, compared to 22 per cent at retailers.

Escolar, which is often sold in place of butterfish and white tuna, can cause acute gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, the study said. It’s considered such a health risk that it’s banned in Japan, South Korea and Italy.

Selling farmed fish in place of wild fish, meanwhile, can expose consumers to concentrated chemicals in species like tilapia, salmon and Asian Catfish.

A dangerous toxin called ciguatera, found in Japanese amberjack often sold instead of yellowtail, can cause “long-term debilitating neurological symptoms” that are hard to treat unless you know their source.

Mislabelling seafood can also cost you a lot more, with cheap fish such as whiting trying pass as Atlantic cod and sold for 4.5 times its value.

If you order seabass, at $114 per kilogram, you could actually be eating catfish worth just $12 per kilogram.

Finally, not having a way to track seafood can lead to illegal fishing of endangered species. Studies estimate that 20 per cent of the fish caught worldwide were caught illegally.

“Seafood fraud allows illegally caught fish to enter the market by giving it a new ‘legal’ identity,” the report said. “This undermines efforts to manage fisheries responsibly, prevent overfishing, deter destructive fishing practices and protect at-risk areas and animals.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ladysmith walks to help others on the Coldest Night of the Year

Community asked to step up for the local hungry and homeless

Unplowed Roads parody song destined to be a classic

Move over Weird Al, Island elementary students on the same level

North Cowichan to pause all logging in forest reserve for 2019

Municipality expects decision to cause $150,000 shorfall this year

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

Sound of Music echoes with a surprising amount of cool

Chemainus Theatre review: my teenage self didn’t know what he was missing

Vancouver Island petition to decriminalize all drugs continues to collect signatures

A Courtenay couple is collecting signatures for their petition to decriminalize drugs in Canada

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

‘A little baloney’ in PM’s claim about solicitor-client privilege on SNC-Lavalin

The Conservatives and NDP want Trudeau to waive that privilege so Wilson-Raybould can offer her side of the story

Proposed edible pot rules are wasteful, would leave products tasteless: critics

When Canada legalized weed last fall, it only allowed fresh or dried bud, oil, plants and seeds

Samsung folding phone is different – but also almost $2,000

But most analysts see a limited market for foldable-screen phones

Alcohol policies fizzle for Canadian governments as harms overflow: reports

About 80 per cent of Canadians drink, and most enjoy a drink or two

Most Read