TODAY | December 11, 2012
>> when you buy fish, are you really getting what you're paid for? turns out maybe not. a lot of seafood is being mislabeled. anne thompson is here with more on that. good morning.
>> good morning, matt. we're being told all the time to eat more seafood because it's high in protein and low in fat. in restaurants and grocery stores , new yorkers don't always get the seafood they think they're buying. it's a problem here and in city's across the country. wrapped in practice or swimming in sauce, boying seafood can sometimes be a bait and switch experience says oceana, the conservation group.
>> consumers are getting ripped off, often getting less desirable, cheaper fish.
>> reporter: testing revealed 39% of the 142 samples purchased this summer in new york city were mislabeled, replaced with seafood of lower quality and value. highest rate at sushi bars. all 16 sushi bars had mislabeled fish. 90% of the white tuna turned out to be escolar, known for its laxative-like effects. popular on restaurant menus and in grocery stores is red snapper but 79% of the red snapper oceana bought was something else, everything from different types of snapper to a potentially dangerous fish.
>> tile fish , which is on the fda do not eat list because of its high mercury levels.
>> reporter: a recommendation for pregnant women , nursing mothers and young children. the results did not surprise new york seafood wholesaler.
>> it's not just in the city. it's worldwide.
>> reporter: alarming rates of mislabeling in miami, boston and los angeles . the food and drug administration regulates seafood labeling. he says he knows what he's buying but for consumers it's a matter of trust.
>> if they had 100 inspectors a day you still couldn't stop it. you have to rely on who you buy from.
>> reporter: to crackdown on seafood fraud, national fisheries institute , trade group , set up the better seafood board, its members promise to label seafood according to state and federal laws .
>> they feel a disadvantage when either their competitors or customers mislabel a product for financial gain. it's just wrong.
>> how do you protect yourself? first of all you have to ask questions of your server or person at the fish counter . i always do. if they don't know where their fish is from or hem and haw, move on to another choice. another clue, if the item seems to be a real bargain, it's probably something else.
>> why don't they ever mislabel it to our benefit? like say you're getting a crumby, cheap fish but instead they give you great, expensive fish?
>> because it's all about the money.
>> never happens that way. anne