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Could That Sushi You Ordered be Mystery Meat?

A study finds widespread seafood fraud throughout Orange County sushi bars, restaurants and grocery stores. Laguna Niguel and Dana Point are cited in the findings.

Sushi bars, and in nine Orange County cities including Dana Point and Laguna Niguel are among those cited in a study by an ocean protection group that showed more than half of seafood sold in those locations was improperly labeled.

Locally, there are at least a dozen Laguna Niguel and Dana Point Harbor destinations for sushi. Click here to find locations in the directory. 

The study, conducted by Washington D.C.-based Oceana, targeted locations in both Los Angeles and Orange County. In Orange County, addition to Dana Point and Laguna Niguel, outlets in Seal Beach, Newport Beach, Garden Grove, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, and San Clemente were included.

Snapper was by far the most mislabeled fish in the study, with 34 out of 34 samples labeled as snapper when they were actually tilapia, perch, rockfish or bream, among others. The fraudulent labeling of snapper and other fish occurred both for the purpose of passing off less expensive fish as premium fish, and for the purpose of concealing the sale of protected species, the study found.

"It is disheartening to know that consumers are not getting what they
pay for," said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. "Seafood fraud is not only ripping off consumers, but it is putting their health at risk and undermining their efforts to eat sustainably."

In terms of venues, sushi bars were the worst offenders, with nearly 90 percent of samples found to be mislabeled. Eight of 10 sushi bars, including one in Costa Mesa, were found to have mislabeled escolar, associated with some, shall we say, unpleasant health issues, as white tuna.

Other O.C. lowlights of the study include:

  • a Newport Beach restaurant passing off catfish as wild, Atlantic or Dover sole; and
  • A Seal Beach grocery store selling chum as sockeye salmon.

-- City News Service contributed to this report.

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