Mystery fish for sale

Published On: Oct 28 2011 12:19:17 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 31 2011 11:48:23 AM EDT

According to the latest research, eating fish can help protect your heart and lower your blood pressure and your risk of stroke. Americans spent more than $80 billion on seafood last year, up $5 billion from the year before. Consumer Reports investigated to find out whether the fish you're buying is what it claims to be.

Shoppers bought 190 samples of 14 different kinds of fish, including red snapper, salmon, and sole. They went to more than 50 retail stores and restaurants in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Consumer Reports testers packed pieces from each sample and sent them to an outside lab. Technicians extracted DNA to determine what kind of fish it was. Only 4 of the 14 types of fish bought were always identified correctly. The biggest discrepancy? Lemon sole. Of the 10 samples, not one turned out to be lemon sole. The red snapper purchases also proved problematic. Of the 22 samples, only 10 were actually red snapper.

Fish passes through so many hands from the time it's caught to the time it's sold that it's hard to tell where the mislabeling occurs, or even whether it’s intentional. That makes the process very difficult to police.

Consumer Reports' findings are in line with other recent studies that show that about 20 to 25 percent of seafood around the world is mislabeled. Until seafood can be more closely monitored, there really is no way to be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.

Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would strengthen cooperation among the different federal agencies that oversee seafood safety, including the Food and Drug Administration.  Consumer Reports endorses this legislation as a good first step in more closely monitoring the labeling of seafood.