59% of Fresh Tuna Bought in the U.S. Is Not Actually Tuna – Truth!

59% of Fresh Tuna Bought in the U.S. Is Not Actually Tuna – Truth!

Summary of eRumor:  

As much as 59% of the fresh “tuna” that Americans eat is not actually tuna.

The Truth:


It’s true that 59% of fresh tuna in American restaurants and markets is not actually tuna, according to a 2013 study.

The study was undertaken by Oceana, an ocean conservation advocacy group, to uncover seafood fraud, or the practice of passing off one kind of seafood for a cheaper kind. Tuna and red snapper were among the most commonly substituted seafood, but overall 33% of samples collected were incorrectly labeled:

“From 2010 to 2012, Oceana conducted one of the largest seafood fraud investigations in the world to date, collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states to determine if they were honestly labeled. DNA testing found that one-third (33 percent) of the 1,215 samples analyzed nationwide were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.”

The study found that 54% of retail outlets visited sold mislabeled fish. Overall, 67 out of 114 tuna samples collected, or 59%, were mislabeled. One of the most common substitutions was a fish called escolar being substituted for white tuna:

“Swapping escolar for white tuna is not only illegal, but it can also cause serious health problems. Escolar, or oilfish (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum), is not actually a tuna species at all, but is instead a snake mackerel that contains a naturally occurring toxin, gempylotoxin. This toxin can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal problems even for some who eat only a few ounces of the fish. Because of the health problems associated with escolar, Italy and Japan have banned it, several other countries have issued health advisories for it, and the FDA advises against the sale of it in the U.S.”

For its part, the FDA developed an “online learning module” in October of 2014 to help the seafood industry, retailers and state regulators ensure that seafood products are property labeled. The FDA said, “Proper identification of seafood is important throughout the seafood supply chain to ensure that appropriate food safety controls are implemented and that consumers are getting the type of seafood they expect and for which they are paying.”