A new investigation led by Oceana Canada has provided some fishy evidence that Canada has a widespread and unchecked seafood fraud problem.
According to the study, 61% of seafood products tested at Montreal grocery stores and restaurants were mislabelled, the second-highest rate of mislabelling in the country.
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The study has shown that almost half of 472 samples – 47% – collected in six Canadian cities in the past two years were mislabelled. In addition to Montreal, this includes testing in Victoria (67% mislabelled), Toronto (59% mislabelled), Ottawa (46% mislabelled), Halifax (38% mislabelled), and Vancouver (26% mislabelled).
According to Oceana Canada, seafood fraud includes swapping cheaper fish and passing them off as more expensive products and putting false and misleading information on a label before selling it to the public.
The results determined that 61% of samples were either a substituted species or didn’t meet the labelling requirements set out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
“We have found farmed fish served up as wild caught, cheaper species substituted for more expensive ones and fish banned in many countries because of health risks masquerading as another species,” said Josh Laughren, executive director at Oceana Canada. “We’ve also uncovered rampant problems with Canada’s seafood traceability and labelling standards. Canadians deserve to know that their seafood is safe, honestly labelled, and legally caught.”
Specific to Montreal, the investigation found that 16% of fish in grocery stores and restaurants were substituted with other species. Butterfish and tuna was found to be replaced with escolar, a species of fish that has been known to cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea and is banned from being sold in other countries.
“The good news is that there is a solution: implementing boat-to-plate traceability and comprehensive labelling in Canadian seafood supply chains. This means requiring key information to be paired with fish products from the point of harvest to the point of sale,” said Laughren. “This will reduce instances of fraud and mislabelling, protect Canadian consumers, honest fishers and vulnerable fish populations, and help Canada’s seafood industry access global markets – many of which already demand stronger traceability.”
A petition lobbying to get the government to stop seafood fraud has been set up online to get the CFIA to take the lead on implementing full boat-to-plate traceability for all seafood sold in Canada.