The marine conservation group Oceana released another study last week on the mislabeling a fish sold in fish markets and restaurants, but this one has an even more disturbing implication. The report indicates that 84 percent of fish sold as “white tuna” is actually escolar, an oily deep-sea fish that is reputed to cause intestinal problems for individuals who consume more than a few ounces.
In this study, Oceana sampled DNA from 1,215 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states from 2010 to 2012. As in studies reported here in the past, this research uncovered gross mislabeling of fish, including 59 percent of fish sold as tuna in American restaurants and grocery stores not actually tuna. The most disturbing finding, however, was that 84 percent of white tuna was escolar. This fish is reported to taste similar to tuna, but the escolar's oily meat also produces prolonged and ghastly intestinal distress in humans when eaten in quantities surpassing six ounces. The symptons are so servere that sale of the fish is banned in Japan and Italy, and requires warning labels in Canada, Sweden, and Denmark.
In an overview of the Oceana report, seafood was mislabeled 18 percent of the time in grocery stores, 38 percent of the time in restaurants, and 74 percent of the time in sushi venues. In Chicago, Austin, New York and Washington, DC, all sushi restaurants sold mislabeled tuna. Oceana is pushing for governmental systems such as those institued by U.S. Food and Drug Administration ensure fish are tracked from boat to plate to help ensure that what you buy is what you get.
In the meantime, if you want to make sure you are actually eating white tuna, you need to go and catch the true white-meat tuna -- albacore.