Labeling Compliance and Species Authentication of Fish Fillets Sold at Grocery Stores in Southern California
Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Rosalee S. Hellberg, Ph.D.
Seafood mislabeling has numerous consequences, including economic deception and food safety risks. The focus of this study was to investigate fish species labeling, use of acceptable market names, and Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) compliance for fresh fish fillets sold at grocery store seafood counters in Southern California. A total of 120 fillets representing 16 different categories of fish were collected from 30 grocery stores. Each sample underwent DNA barcoding to determine the species. Use of an acceptable market name was confirmed using the FDA Seafood List. Samples were determined to be compliant with COOL if both the country of origin and the production method were declared in accordance with regulatory requirements. Among the 120 samples examined, species substitution was detected in 16 samples (13.3%) and unacceptable market names were observed for an additional 11 samples (9.2%). The category with the highest rate of species substitution was snapper (3/3), followed by yellowtail (2/4), halibut (4/10), cod (3/10), and bass (2/7). COOL noncompliance was observed for 28 samples (23.3%): the country of origin was missing for 15 samples, production method was missing for 9 samples, and 4 samples were missing both. Overall, 25 out of the 30 grocery stores visited had at least one sample with a mislabeling error. This study revealed species mislabeling as a continuing concern in the seafood industry, especially with high-value species. Furthermore, the lack of COOL compliance among retailers is concerning and suggests a need for increased focus on these regulations.
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Liou, P. (2019). Labeling compliance and species authentication of fish fillets sold at grocery stores in southern California. Master's thesis, Chapman University. https://doi.org/10.36837/chapman.000067