Seafood mislabeling has a direct impact on your health. Seafood that is not handled or refrigerated properly can cause severe illness. When one fish species is swapped for another that is carrying allergens, contaminants, or toxins, people can get sick. While the globalization of our food supply means we enjoy a wider variety of seafood at the dinner table, it also means more opportunity for mislabeling, and a broader array of potential allergens, contaminants, and pathogens to be covered up.
One health concern is ciguatera, a form a food poisoning carried in imported large reef fish. Symptoms of ciguatera include diarrhea, nausea, numbness, blurred vision, and can include reverse temperature sensation (when hot feels cold and cold feels hot).
Ciguatera can be debilitating with severe neurologic symptoms that can last for several weeks and months, and may recur throughout your life.
Potentially higher health risks can occur when farmed fish is sold as wild and vice versa. Fish raised in aquaculture pens can carry dyes and antibiotics not found in wild varieties. In some cases, farmed salmon has been found to contain higher levels of certain contaminants. The use of antibiotics in aquaculture, particularly in species such as catfish, has been shown to lead to the spread of drug resistant bacteria.
The most life-threatening risk of seafood mislabeling and fraud is allergens. Along with peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shellfish are among the most common food allergies in the United States.
An emerging public health problem has resulted from the failure of seafood labels to declare potential allergens involving shellfish, shrimp, and other species.
According to Oceana, the two most mislabeled fish are snapper and tuna, often replaced with escolar, a snake mackerel that can cause severe gastric distress. Often overfished Atlantic cod is frequently mislabeled as Pacific cod and vice versa.
Grouper is often switched with at-risk species such as Gulf grouper, speckled hind, and in one case king mackerel, a high-mercury fish that the federal government has advised small children and pregnant women to avoid.
The best way to protect your health is to be sure to dine or shop at BonafIDcatch approved establishments.
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