Along with many other northwesterners, I cringed when I saw the New York Times story that Manhattan markets were selling farmed salmon labeled as wild-a practice that apparently is not unique to New York. (A consumer affairs expert referred to it as “improperly baiting customers.”)
Tests performed for The New York Times in March on salmon sold as wild by eight New York City stores, going for as much as $29 a pound, showed that the fish at six of the eight were farm raised. Farmed salmon, available year round, sells for $5 to $12 a pound in the city.
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Since farmed salmon are fed artificial coloring to make them look pink, even experts have a tough time telling the difference by appearance alone. Taste may be a different story. But by then it’s too late. Store officials, meanwhile, had any number of excuses. My favorite is the one who said his sales clerks "must have gotten the salmon from the wrong pile in the back."
It might seem a little odd that the Times is sending reporters to investigate salmon fraud. I see it as a positive sign, testament to growing demand for information about the “secret lives” of consumer products-how they’re produced, what’s been added to them, and what the environmental and health impacts are. Farmed salmon, for example, have been shown to contain more PCBs and other toxics than wild salmon.
One recent win for consumers is a new eco-labeling law for fish, requiring that markets carry information on where certain seafood originated, and whether it was wild-caught or farm-raised. But the law only applies to full-service markets, not to fish markets. So, unfortunately, it’s still up to consumers to remember that when they see “fresh, wild salmon" advertised in the store, it might just be a fish story.