California Considers Cracking Down on Seafood Labels

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A recent study found that seafood mislabeling is running rampant in California
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The proposed law would make knowingly mislabeling fish a finable or jailable offense.

Just what are you getting when you order fish? It may not be a question you’ve thought much about, but it’s one worth asking. Recently, a three-year study conducted by the ocean conservancy organization Oceana revealed that about a third of all seafood in the country is mislabeled. Mislabeling tends to be most common for certain types of fish, including white tuna and albacore, which is frequently replaced by escolar — a fish the Food and Drug Administration advises against selling and consuming due to its gastrointestinal effects.

The numbers were even worse in California. Northern California saw 38 percent of its seafood mislabeled while in Southern California, it happened 52 percent of the time. The study also found that in Northern California, an amazing 76 percent of sushi restaurants sold fish that had been mislabeled.

In the wake of the stunning report, California lawmakers are looking to fight back. According to a new report from the San Francisco Chronicle, State Senator Alex Padilla has introduced legislation that would make knowingly mislabeling seafood a finable or imprisonable offense. However, even if the law passes, it could still be incredibly difficult to trace mislabeled seafood to its source.

“We have traceability for meat products, but we’re not implementing the same traceability when it comes to our fish — but we should be,” Oceana spokesperson Ashley Blacow told the Chronicle.

If the law passes, penalties for offenders could include up to a year in jail and fines of up to $10,000. 

Adam D’Arpino is the Restaurants Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDArpino.

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