No one likes being deceived. But seafood fraud hurts more than your ego. Nearly 60 per cent of the substituted samples (97 out of 168 samples) found in this investigation could have potential health consequences for consumers.
This makes seafood fraud a food safety issue.
All 10 of the samples labelled “butterfish” and 10 of the 15 samples labelled “white tuna” actually turned out to be escolar. This oily fish can cause acute gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Japan, South Korea and Italy have all banned the sale of escolar because of its health risks.9 Canada has issued special guidelines for the sale of escolar and require the fish to be labelled as either escolar or snake mackerel,10 but frequent mislabelling leaves consumers susceptible.
Oceana Canada found examples of species that are typically farmed sold as wild-caught fish, including tilapia sold as snapper; Asian catfish sold as grouper and sole; and farmed Atlantic salmon sold as wild Pacific salmon. If you unwittingly end up with farmed fish instead of wild-caught, you run the risk of consuming chemicals with your meal. According to CFIA, farmed tilapia, salmon and Asian catfish may contain drug residues, antibiotics and contaminants that pose health hazards.11 Unlike the European Union and the United States, Canadian labelling laws do not require fish labels to include whether the product was wild-caught or farmed.
Ciguatera is a natural toxin found in certain reef fish, including some species of snapper and amberjack. Unless you’re treated within a few days of consuming it, ciguatera can cause long-term debilitating neurological symptoms. But you’re not likely to be diagnosed correctly unless you know exactly what you’ve eaten. Oceana Canada’s studies found that all 18 samples of “yellowtail” collected across Canada were in fact Japanese amberjack.