You can’t go wrong choosing healthy and delicious fish for dinner.
Or CAN you? It turns out that wild-caught salmon or red snapper you selected may not be what it seems. In fact, you could be cutting into a mystery fish.
And this seafood swindle isn’t anything new. It’s been going on for YEARS. We first starting warning readers about it at least eight years ago.
But instead of getting better over the years, it looks like it’s gotten FAR worse.
The latest installment in this fishy tale is a study conducted by our neighbors to the north in Canada. A group of researchers at the University of Guelph uncovered something shocking. As much as 32 percent of all commercially sold fish may be mislabeled.
And they think this fast one is being pulled BEFORE the fish ever reach Canada. Which means there’s every reason to believe that the rest of us are bigger victims than we ever realized too.
Mislabeled seafood isn’t a NEW problem
Of course, we already knew there was a problem.
For example, in 2011 Oceana conducted DNA testing which found the fish on your plate is not the species listed on the menu up to 50 percent of the time.
And in 2013, a study found 90 percent of fish labeled “red snapper” was actually mystery fish. In fact, of the 1,200 samples tested from 21 states, a full third were mislabeled.
It was a literal bait-and-switch. And every single time, the replacement fish was cheaper and less desirable. But it’s not JUST your wallet in jeopardy here. Your health could be too. Because those mystery fish are also more contaminated.
Which means when you carefully select wild-caught, healthy fish to feed your family that may not be what they’re getting. Instead, you could accidentally be serving them cheap, unhealthy knock-offs.
And THAT can have serious health consequences.
Mercury laced fish could make you sick
There’s no way to know where the cheap bait-and-switch fish you end up with comes from. They could be pulled from polluted waters or a factory farm. But either way, contamination can be an issue…. starting with mercury.
Mercury is a rare element which occurs naturally in the environment. Exposure to it, even in small amounts, can cause serious health problems.
Mercury can be toxic to your digestive, nervous, and immune systems. And it can affect your kidneys, lungs, eyes, and skin. And in pregnant women, it can threaten the life of the baby.
If you’re a regular fish eater (and I hope you are), you should be careful what kind you choose. Or you may be at risk for mercury poisoning.
Four of the worst offenders are shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. And unfortunately, these are also often the VERY same ones mislabeled as other varieties.
I’ll share some strategies you can use to help reduce your chances of being swindled in just a moment. But first, let’s look at some other ways mystery fish could be harming your health.
Farmed fish contaminated with chemicals
Mercury isn’t the only thing you have to worry about spoiling your dinner. Just like meat from factory-farmed cows, fish raised in commercial fisheries can come with a side dish of unwanted extras.
Factory farmed fish are often raised in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. So fisheries used antibiotics to keep them healthy enough to sell. Which means you could be swallowing traces of those drugs with every bite of your dinner.
But that’s just the start. They’re often raised in water laced with pesticides and other creepy chemicals. Three of the most common toxins are…
- Dibutyltin: A chemical found in plastic that triggers unhealthy immune and inflammatory responses
- Polybrominated diphenyl ether: Also known as PBDE this chemical is used in fire retardants and has been linked to cancer
- Dioxins: Highly toxic chemicals that can mess with your immune system, your nervous system, and cause cancer
And with each factory farmed or mystery fish, you could be exposed to ALL of them.
4 steps to outsmart the seafood swindlers
It’s enough to make you want to swear off eating fish. But that would be a mistake. Fish is STILL one of the healthiest additions you can make to your diet.
Instead, choose wild-caught, cold-water varieties whenever possible. And try these four steps to outsmart the seafood swindlers…
- Ask, ask, ask: The guy at the fish counter, and the chef in the kitchen both should be able to tell you not only where their fish was caught and processed, but when. If they can’t, think twice about placing your order.
- Buy whole fish: When possible buy a whole fish and ask the seller to prep it for you. It’s harder to pull a fast one when you pick the fish out yourself.
- Be careful of “bargains”: If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Wild salmon isn’t cheap. If you feel like the cost is too low, you’re probably buying farm-raised. At least one report says that happens up to 27 percent of the time.
- Choose wisely: Mahi-mahi, flounder, tilapia, and shellfish are the least likely to be mislabeled. Red snapper, grouper, halibut, and wild salmon are the most likely to be. If you’re buying one from the second group, be sure to buy from a trusted source. And remember, you can always go back to step one and ask, ask, ask.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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