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

PHOTOS: Hope remembers, 100 years since the end of the Great War

Veterans, police, fire and rescue services, politicians, community organizations and residents attend Nov. 11 ceremony

Community Briefs: Nov. 17 craft sale going strong since the 80s

Also: Fraser Canyon Hospital Auxiliary raises $19,000

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

Gymnastics program on a roll at Hope rec centre

“Gymnastics can make such a difference in a childs ’ development”: instructor, Chelsea Currie

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Touching note left on Lower Mainland veteran’s windshield

A veteran is hoping the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words.

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

18-year-old to hospital after shots fired in White Rock

Police investigating early-morning incident

Shelter struggles: Landlord takes over rental unit whenever visiting B.C. town

Renter’s story highlights how hard it is to find accommodation in Revelstoke

‘Weird Al’ brings Strings Attached tour to Lower Mainland next summer

Legendary musical satirist performs with full symphony orchestra

Lack of public response threatens B.C. referendum credibility

Of the few who have voted, poll finds most rejected proportional representation

Tentative deal reached in NHL concussion lawsuit

More than 100 former players accused the league of failing to better prevent head trauma

Most Read