Mislabeling fish or shellfish would be illegal in California under a bill that will have its first hearing this week. The legislation is in response to a nationwide survey finding rampant seafood fraud.
The ocean advocacy group Oceana conducted DNA tests on more than 1200 samples of seafood in stores and restaurants in 21 states. Geoff Shester is the group’s California Program Director.
“California faired among the worst in the nation having some of the highest mislabeling rates greater than the national average," says Shester. "Nationally over one-third of the seafood tested was mislabeled according to the Food and Drug Administration guidelines.”
It found 52 percent of all fish sampled in Southern California were mislabeled. Thirty-eight percent of fish in Northern California were mislabeled.
Shester says mislabeling harms consumers, fishermen and the health of the ocean.
Democratic Senator Alex Padilla is authoring a bill that would require stores and restaurants to identify fish or shellfish by its common scientific name.
"Certain species of fish can have unhealthy levels of mercury or can cause severe allergic reactions and we often found these unhealthy species were substituted for the healthy species that are recommended,” says Padilla.
It would impose a one-thousand dollar fine and up to a year in jail for mislabeling seafood.
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