A UBC study found that 70 of the samples, or 25 per cent, had been mislabelled either accidentally or intentionally. (pxhere.com)

Quarter of seafood sold in Metro Vancouver is mislabelled: researchers

Intentional mislabelling can mask concerns about sustainability or human rights

Catfish is passing as cod and tilapia is masquerading as snapper in Metro Vancouver, says a new study that found up to a quarter of seafood sold in the region was mislabelled.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia collected 281 samples of fish and other seafood from restaurants and grocery stores, then tested the DNA to determine the true species.

Their study, published Monday in the journal Food Control, found that 70 of the samples, or 25 per cent, had been mislabelled either accidentally or intentionally.

The results are comparable with another study done by the school almost 10 years ago, said Yaxi Hu, a PhD candidate at UBC and the latest study’s lead author.

The global supply chain is very complicated and a fish can pass through many countries before it hits a supermarket, so it’s difficult to tell when or why a sample was mislabelled, she said.

“Different countries, their accepted common names for some sea species are not quite the same. So there could be some unintentionally mislabelled products during the shipment.”

Along the supply chain, someone may intentionally mislabel seafood in a bid to pass it off as a more expensive product, which is food fraud, Hu said.

That can have big impacts on consumers and could pose health risks for people and for fish stocks, said one sustainable fisheries advocate.

“Seafood fraud hurts our oceans, it hurts our health and it hurts our wallets,” said Julia Levin, a seafood campaigner with Oceana Canada, which helped with the research in the study.

Intentional mislabelling can mask concerns about sustainability or human rights, Levin said.

“As a consumer, if you want to make a responsible decision about seafood, you have to know exactly what you’re getting, like the species, and exactly how it was caught, whether it was farmed, whether it was wild caught and the gear that was used, as well as where it came from,” she said.

Consumers can also unknowingly be exposed to allergens, toxins and environmental contaminants if they eat fish that’s mislabelled, Levin added.

The problem isn’t contained to B.C., she said, noting that Oceana Canada looked at 98 seafood samples from around Ottawa last year and found that nearly 50 per cent were mislabelled. The group is currently working on a national report on seafood fraud that’s due out in August.

READ MORE: Free fishing allowed for Family Fishing Weekend

Both Hu and Levin said they want to see consumers offered more information about their seafood, including labels in grocery stores that have the scientific names of fish and where the product was caught.

Levin said the federal government should require the marine industry to implement “boat-to-plate traceability,” tracking seafood as it moves through the entire supply chain.

“We need to make sure the details are right and we need more details,” she said.

Hu said she’d also like to see the government accepted names of fish harmonized between major trading countries to reduce unintentional mislabelling of fish.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

Mother-daughter charged in 2017 torched-SUV killing in South Surrey now allowed contact

Judge grants Manjit Kaur Deo permission to connect with Inderdeep Kaur Deo through a lawyer

BIA floats idea of drive-through Santa Parade

If event goes ahead, ‘parade’ of cars would stream through fairgrounds

PHOTOS: South Surrey skunk family photo earns honourable mention in BC SPCA contest

Winners of society’s latest wildlife photography contest announced

Surrey wrestler Jason Bains receives four-year suspension for using banned substance

Queen Elizabeth Secondary grad tests positive for steroid Turinabol, silver national medal removed

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Machine pistol among 14 firearms seized from Alaska man at B.C. border crossing

Corey Scott Kettering faces charges of smuggling and prohibited firearm possession

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Altercation with gunfire in Lower Mainland lands two in hospital

Quiet area of Langley was awoken at 5 a.m. Friday morning to a fight involving gun shots

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Report raises questions about COVID outbreak that killed 25 seniors at Langley Lodge

CEO defends leaked document that’s igniting queries about BC’s most deadly COVID outbreak

Most Read