Your Seafood Is Probably Not What You Think You Bought

Our lives and our health are supposed to be so much better with more seafood in our diets (if that's your jam). That gets a little harder to manage when a significant portion of the seafood on offer isn't what it claims to be. Whatever you're paying for, you're probably eating a lot more tilapia than you think.

A new study from the University of British Columbia found that on average, 1 in 4 seafood items sold in Vancouver grocery stores, restaurants, and sushi bars is mislabeled. If you're trying to buy salmon, tuna, sole, or other fish varieties, there's a better-than-small chance it's something else. The numbers are even more shocking for varieties of snapper: Of 34 samples, only three had DNA belonging to that type of fish.

This isn't just a problem in Canada. Other studies, including those in the U.S., have found the seafood mislabeling rate as high as 33 percent. (The worldwide average is more like Vancouver's, between 20 and 25 percent.) About two-thirds of those cases are economically motivated, meaning that somewhere in the supply chain, maybe even long before it hits the table at a restaurant, a provider of seafood introduced a lie to increase prices. When fish can be caught in one country's jurisdiction, processed by another (sometimes several times over), and sold in another, it's not so hard to do.

In this case, if you're looking to avoid the issue, it's best to inject some healthy skepticism into your shopping. Ask where your fish comes from, and take every opportunity to buy locally, if you can. Even if you can't tell swordfish from cod, you'll shop with a lot more confidence whenever you're more informed.