Widespread fraud found in Fla. fish claims

April 3, 2011 at 7:35 PM

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., April 3 (UPI) -- Something is fishy in the seafood menus of many Florida restaurants, a wave of false labeling charges suggests.

In 2010, 186 restaurants were cited by state authorities for mislabeling their fish, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Sunday.

In some cases, sushi or sashimi contained an oily fish called escolar claimed to be tuna.

The most common problem reported was labeling imitation crab meat, usually pollock, as crab. Other substitutions noted were cheaper tilapia in lieu of red snapper and panga for grouper.

A genetics class class at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla., recently tested fish advertised as white tuna from 10 South Florida sushi eateries. The results, confirmed last week, showed eight were improperly labeled, said Professor Mahmood Shivji. A study last year of 10 restaurants in South Florida and Orlando found all were serving escolar as white tuna.

"My sense is that this is an unspoken industry standard," Shivji said.

Web sites for some wholesalers imply that white tuna and escolar are synonymous, even though escolar is not a tuna at all.

"It's consumer fraud. Period," Bob Jones of the Southeastern Fisheries Association said.

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