Are You Eating Fake Fish? (Hint: Yes,You Probably Are…)

fake fish

Fake food is all around us, and it is difficult to identify. It is in coffee, herbal tea, fish, cheese, olive oil, champagne, fruit juice, kobe beef, and more. There is enough fake food to write a series of articles. The subject will easily fill a book, or two. Let’s focus on fish. Are you eating fake fish?

We associate a ‘fishy’ smell with being bad, but fresh fish, correctly identified and labeled, doesn’t have a strong scent. Fresh fish should be of the sea. It resembles salty ocean smell that wafts up the nostrils and lingers long after you’ve left. It’s as strong as vinegar, which is used for pickling, and as repugnant as ammonia. Getting your hands on fresh fish is a luxury because the week old item at the grocery store may be past its prime. Don’t worry if you can’t tell good fish from bad fish. Most of the time I can’t either, and we’re in good company because experts have a difficult time discerning one ‘fishy’ smell from another. Good ‘fishy’ or bad ‘fishy’, that is the question.

Fake fish

Tuna, red snapper, salmon, shrimp, sushi–much of it is fake. Between 2010 and 2012 Oceana conducted one of the world’s largest seafood fraud studies largest seafood fraud studies in the world. It collected more than 1,200 samples of seafood from 674 retail outlets in 21 states to determine if they were honestly labeled. Nearly one third–33%–were mislabeled.

Snapper and tuna

The highest mislabeled fish are snapper and tuna, at 87%, and 59%, respectively. DNA analysis revealed only seven of the 120 samples of red snapper were actually red snapper, and the other 113 samples were a different fish.

The study reveals a need for better information about fish sold in the States. State and federal regulators are called to enforce existing laws and reverse the trend. Fisherman want respect for their hard work and their trade.

Oceana repeats the study and honest fisherman are awarded their own law. The new study reveals 82 salmon samples collected from grocery stores and restaurants and 43% were mislabeled. DNA testing confirmed 69% mislabeled farmed Atlantic salmon as being wild caught.

“Americans might love salmon, but as our study reveals, they may be falling victim to a bait and switch,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana.

“When consumers opt for wild-caught U.S. salmon, they don’t expect to get a farmed or lower-value product of questionable origins,” she said.


To make them bigger and more appealing shrimp are injected with silicon gel in this video.

Americans eat over 1 billion pounds of shrimp annually. A decade ago mangrove farms were cleared to make shrimp farms, but today farms are inland, in artificial ponds and rice fields of Southeast Asia. Last year the Associated Press revealed human trafficking at Thailand shrimp farms and throughout the industry. The end process requires human hands on peeling of shrimp with low workplace standards.

Dominique Barnes, CEO of New Wave Foods, wants shrimp to ride a new wave with no fishing, no nets, no mangroves, no slavery, no shrimp. Barnes wants to make shrimp from algae and acknowledges that people may not be receptive to the idea at first. Google and New Wave Foods receive shrimp demonstrations, hopeful people will make a switch.


Rarely authentic in restaurants. It’s hard to find real sushi unless you go slumming in authentic restaurants with workers that know how to make it, or you make it at home.

“I hate to tell you this,” journalist Larry Olmsted said over the phone, “but the sushi you are ordering is probably fake, or at least mislabeled. And I wouldn’t eat it.”

Olmsted is the author of Real Food/Fake Food and suggests that sushi is a sometimes food. It is raw fish after all. It isn’t meant to be eaten every day. To ensure quality, visit mid-range to high-end restaurants. If you want a value meal price, you will get a value meal product.

What is fake sushi? Species substitution and alteration happen at restaurants claiming to serve a higher price fish, but switching the inside out for a lesser price option.

“Eat it better, but less”, Olmsted said.

Benefits of eating fish

  • High in omega-3s, fatty acids
  • Helps lower heart attack and stroke
  • Improves skin and hair
  • Increases grey matter in the brain
  • Aids against autoimmune disease
  • Extends good vision

Omega-3s and fatty acids are well established for heart health, and new studies show it is essential for total-body wellness. If you’re not a fan of fish the good news is that eating it once or twice a week is enough to reap the benefits. Fish oil tablets are mediocre in absorption. Go straight to the source for best results.

Heart disease is many times caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis often develops as bad cholesterol hardens in the heart valves and leads to heart attack or stroke. Popular supplements do not replace eating fish, according to the American Heart Association. Dr. Lichenstein, former chair of the AHA, “This is not an antibiotic that you take for five days and you’re finished. This is a long-term change in dietary pattern. Hopefully, it goes along with other changes in dietary patterns, like eating more fruits and vegetables or more fiber-rich, whole grains.”

Skin and hair are healthier with oil. One of the biggest drawbacks of a low-fat diet is dull, flat, lifeless hair and dry skin. Omega-3 and fatty acids help nourish skin and add a shine to hair. Skip the Argan oil and indulge in an extra serving of salmon.

Grey matter is the fat of the brain that helps the neurons keep firing and processing information effectively. It includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. Eating fish keeps more grey matter in your brain as you age.

Autoimmune conditions occur when the immune system attacks healthy body tissue. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are examples that are reduced when linked to fish oil consumption.

Vision is healthier in old age fish is consumed. Macular degeneration causes blurry or loss of vision, typically in older-aged people. One study notes a 43% improvement in women who regularly consume fish. Another study notes eating fish once a week decreases neovascular macular degeneration by 53%.

Tips to identify fresh fish

Knowing about food is difficult. Knowing about fish is more difficult. Helpful tips for fresh fish buying:

  • Appearance: Is it shiny, metallic, or dulled (marginal)?
  • Smells like clean water, or a touch briny, but not pungent
  • Gills should be a rich red, not black
  • Liquid should be clear, not milky
  • Vibrant flesh: a faded fish is an aged fish

Have you heard the saying, “fake it until you make it”?

The word is out. Fish is good for us, and much of it is ‘faked’ to maximize profit.

Are you eating fake fish? Please comment below with your answer.

This is a reader suggested topic. When you make suggestions in the Facebook community, or with comment forms, we explore them. If there is a healthy topic you want to know more about, please share it.