According to an advocacy group’s report released Thursday, consumers around the nation can’t be sure what kind of shrimp they’re buying if they simply look at the label or menu at supermarkets, grocers and restaurants.
Seven of 15 shrimp samples obtained last year from Washington-area restaurants, or 47 percent, were misrepresented to consumers, according to the advocacy group Oceana. All in all the group found that 43 of 143 shrimp samples obtained from restaurants and grocery stores in four regions: Washington, New York City, Portland, Ore., and the Gulf Coast, were misrepresented.
Among the major findings, the most common species substitution was farmed whiteleg shrimp sold as “wild” or “Gulf” shrimp, and 40% of the shrimp samples were species not known to be sold in the United States (including one banded coral shrimp, which is typically an aquarium pet, in a bag of frozen salad shrimp). he most common mislabeling found in the study was farmed whiteleg shrimp that were sold as more expensive and flavorful wild or gulf shrimp.
Oceana also found a general lack of information on sourcing, with 30% of samples in grocery stores lacking labeling on a country of origin and 29% lacking labeling on whether the shrimp was farmed or wild.
The group acknowledged that the survey was but a small sample, but said the survey using DNA techniques is the first of its kind. The group did a similar survey last year for fish and made similar findings. A laboratory tested each sample to identify what kind of shrimp each was by species. “It was a first good look at shrimp,” said Kimberly Warner, a marine scientist with Oceana. She went out and obtained many of the samples.
She said shrimp mislabeling has gotten worse in recent decades, and coincided with a growing appetite for shrimp among Americans. For more than a decade, shrimp has become the nation’s most popular seafood, according to federal data. The craving for shrimp has been accompanied by a major uptick in imported farm-raised shrimp, which are considered inferior to shrimp caught in the open ocean.
Moreover, according to an August import alert by the Food and Drug Administration, 25% of seafood samples of catfish, basa, shrimp, dace and eel from China included drug residue.
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