A fish for a sucker

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Is this a red snapper? Would you pay $7 a pound to find out?

You’re a sucker if you buy one of these fish.

This is not a red snapper, yet the Asian Supermarket on Central Avenue in Colonie insists it is. The clerk confirmed it, in his limited English.

It’s not, and it’s a symptom of a problem that’s far wider than the Capital District.

Eight-seven percent of fish sold as red snapper were not, according to results of a seafood fraud investigation by Oceana, a fisheries nonprofit. According to DNA testing, 33 percent of the 1,215 samples the group analyzed across the country were mislabeled. After snapper, tuna had the next-highest rate of mislabeling, at 59 percent.

So how does this happen?

It can start at the commercial level, with fisheries deliberately misidentifying fish to boost prices for a fish that normally wouldn’t sell high. This also happens when farmed salmon is sold as wild, which can triple the price.

It could be your wholesale fish purveyor changing the name, trying to meet demand or to move fish that aren’t selling quickly.

It could also be at the retail level, where clerks may be inexperienced.

Bottom line: Know your purveyor. Know your fish. A lot of fish look like red snapper. This does not.

And if something smells funny, it probably is.

At Sac, we largely have avoided this issue by largely avoiding serving fish — kids aren’t fond of salmon — and being careful with our purveyors when we do. Our fish comes from the two largest foodservice purveyors in the country, and both have always been swift to replace or credit me for any product — seafood, meat, produce, anything — that seems fishy, so to speak.

By the way, the red snapper above? It’s probably a lane snapper, also known as a candy snapper. Same family tree, different fish, different price.

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