Los Angeles Restaurants on the Hook for Fish Fraud, Says UCLA/Marymount Study

Something fishy is going on in the Los Angeles sushi industry. Local diners might be shocked to find out that sushi restaurants have been casting a lie for years, serving yellowtail that might not be yellowtail at all. 

A new UCLA and Loyola Marymount University study examined the DNA of fish items at 26 Los Angeles restaurants over the course of four years. The researchers also tested fish sold at high-end grocery stores over the course of one year. The study appeared this week in the journal of Conservation Biology. 

Of the fish tested between 2012 to 2016, nearly half was found to be mislabeled. Although the sampled grocery stores had an overall mislabeling rate of 42%, slightly lower than the overall 47%, all sampled sushi restaurants had at least one case of misrepresentation. The similarity in mislabeling rates implies that "bait-and-switch" could be occurring earlier in the supply chain than the point of sale to consumers. 

The study listed red snapper, yellowfin tuna, halibut, and yellowtail as having consistently high instances of mislabeling. Only bluefin tuna was found to always be exactly as advertised, while salmon was mislabeled about 10% of the time. However, out of 43 halibut and 32 red snapper samples, the researchers were always served a different type of fish than what was labeled.

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