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Fish fraud rampant in NYC

King salmon, also known as chinook, sit on

King salmon, also known as chinook, sit on ice at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. (Sept. 20, 2010) Credit: AP

Yesterday, Oceana released a report entitled “Widespread Seafood Fraud Found in New York City.” The international ocean-conservation group collected samples from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues and found that 39 percent of the 142 samples were mislabled.

Oceana has performed similar studies around the country with similar results: In Los Angeles, 55 percent of samples were mislabed, 48 percent in Boston and 31 percent in Miami. The New York City study concentrated on Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, but some of the samples were purchased in Staten Island, Commack, Scarsdale and Hudson, N.Y., as well as Edgewater, N.J. It’s unlikely that fish served and sold on Long Island is any more trustworthy.

The most faked fish in the study was white tuna (albacore) — mislabled 94 percent of the time. I wrote about this almost two years ago when I was served some suspciously white albacore at a sushi bar in Plainview; true albacore has a faint pink cast. White tuna is extremely rare; assume you’re not getting what you ordered.

Not surprisingly, there was also a lot of farmed Atlantic salmon masquerading as wild Pacific. I’ve written exhaustively on this topic, most recently here. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of salmon in the market and in restaurants is farmed. It is fattier than wild, and its color is often less vivid. Unless it is much more expensive than you’re used to seeing, assume it’s farmed.

Red snapper is often mislabeled, but here I’m going to cut retailers and chefs some slack. There are so many types of snapper, and many of them are also red. I have no sympathy for the guy who sells me tilapia instead of red snapper, but crimson snapper and Caribbean red snapper are another story.

The report makes for fascinating reading. Click here for the full report.

Wild pacific salmon — here, king salmon, also known as chinook — is much rarer than farmed Atlantic salmon.

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