Mislabeling of Seafood Has Negative Economic Effects

A new study on mislabeling of seafood species, including salmon, concludes that such practices have negative economic, social and ecological consequences, from consumer losses due to fraudulent exchange to hiding illegal and unreported catches.

“Economy matters: A study of mislabeling in salmon products from two regions, Alaska and Canada (Northwest of America) and Asturias (Northwest of Spain)” appears in the November online edition of Fisheries Research at ScienceDirect.com.

Salmon are an important part of the culture and economy of many countries in the northern hemisphere, and identifying possible causes of salmon mislabeling is of great interest, even more so where wild species and species from aquaculture are consumed, researchers said.

The study, involving DNA barcoding analysis of a total of 111 salmon products from Asturias in Northwest Spain, and Alaska and Vancouver Island, found that the Spanish and Northwest American samples were mislabeled 6 percent and 23.8 percent respectively.

Species substitutions were respectively wild-farmed and wild-wild, the substitute species being cheaper. Economic reasons and social preference of wild over farmed products seem to be the main drivers in the exchanges detected in this study, researchers said. Enhancing controls over the unrecognizable products is essential and strongly recommended to prevent such fraud.

A table included in the online study identifies the mislabeled Alaska salmon product as jerky labeled as wild king salmon, when the jerky was in fact wild keta salmon.

The Vancouver Island product identified as salmon candy, with a “spring salmon” label was likewise wild keta salmon.