That “Wild Gulf Shrimp” You Bought Might Actually Be Farmed Whiteleg Shrimp

Just because you spent an hour searching the grocery store for the perfect bag of Wild Gulf Shrimp doesn’t mean you’re actually getting wild shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico.. In fact a new study released Thursday found that nearly a third of the shrimp products being sold in U.S. stores and restaurants aren’t what they seem to be.

The study from international environmental advocacy group, Oceana, analyzed 143 shrimp products from 111 grocery stores and restaurants in New York City, Washington, D.C., Portland, OR, and the Gulf of Mexico region.

DNA testing revealed that 30% of the products contained some kind of misrepresentation including products where one species was swapped for another; product sold as Gulf/wild shrimp were actually farmed; or bags included a mix of different species.

According to the report, the most common misrepresentation was the labeling of farmed whiteleg shrimp as “wild” or “Gulf” shrimp. However, none of the shrimp labeled as farmed were misrepresented.

And in one of the more disturbing findings, the group discovered that a frozen bag of salad-sized shrimp included an aquarium pet – a banded coral shrimp – not meant for consumption.

“Despite its popularity, U.S. consumers are routinely given little to no information about the shrimp they purchase,” Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana, says in a statement. “While shrimp is the most commonly consumed seafood in the U.S., and the most highly traded seafood in the world, its high demand has led to conservation concerns as well as a bait and switch on consumers.”

While Oceana found misrepresented shrimp in all regions that were tested, the most came from New York City where 43% of the products were mislabeled.

Products in Washington, D.C. didn’t fare much better, with 33% of products found to be mislabeled.

One might assume that shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico region would have the least amount of mislabeling, but you’d be wrong. The area was found to have about 30% of products mislabeled.

In fact, Portland had the fewest products mislabeled, with just 5% containing misrepresentations.

Overall, Oceana reports that 35% of the 111 vendors selling the tested products sold misrepresented shrimp.

While a majority of the 70 restaurants visited for the study did not include information about the types of scrimp, nearly 31% of those who did provide information sold misrepresented shrimp.

Of the 41 grocery stores included in the study, 41% sold misrepresented products.

“Until traceability is the status quo, consumers should ask more questions about the seafood they purchase, including what kind it is, if it is wild or farm-raised, and where and how it was caught,” Lowell says in the statement.

Oceana is urging the government task force responsible for combating seafood fraud to take a comprehensive approach to addressing issues of traceability to ensure that products sold in the U.S. are safe, legally caught, and properly labeled.

Oceana Study Reveals Misrepresentation of America’s Favorite Seafood [Oceana]

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