Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Mislabeling Seafood Products Is Illegal

Consumers need to be informed when it comes to buying seafood. Knowing what to look for when shopping at a seafood retail market or grocery store, or while dining in a restaurant, can help consumers get what they pay for. Unfortunately, there have been instances when some wholesalers, retailers and restaurants have substituted lesser-value fish without the consumer’s knowledge. The lesser-value fish are from places like China or Vietnam and are not the same species as wild-caught Florida fish. Mislabeling seafood products is against the law. Consumers are cheated when they pay for an expensive fish but instead receive a fish species of lesser value.

Florida grouper — because of its limited supply and relatively high price — has been targeted by unscrupulous merchants who seek to deceive and cheat consumers. There have been numerous instances of lesser-value fish species being substituted for Florida grouper. Consumers who suspect that an item purchased is not grouper are encouraged to report it.

Being informed and aware can help consumers ensure they are getting what they pay for. Know the appearance and texture of Florida grouper. Grouper, one of Florida’s prized seafood items, is a premium fish harvested from the Gulf of Mexico and southern Atlantic Ocean. While individual species have unique identifiable characteristics, grouper are commonly described as lean, white-flesh fish with a taste and texture that is popular and distinct from most common white-flesh fish. Grouper fillets are usually thick with a firm texture. When purchasing grouper, look for a label on the menu or at the store. If the grouper bears this "Fresh From Florida" logo, it is required by law that the grouper be from Florida. (Grouper from another country can be labeled as "grouper" but not as "Florida grouper.") Deal with merchants that you trust. There are many markets and restaurants in Florida that pride themselves on serving Florida seafood.

Be wary of grouper prices that are suspiciously low. Because the supply of Florida grouper is limited, the price is generally around $11 to $13 per pound wholesale filet value, and the retail value — the price paid by consumers — will be even higher. Prices that are considerably lower likely mean that the fish is not grouper, but instead is a substitute species of lesser value, such as basa, Asian swai, sutchi or tra catfish.

Florida seafood industry experts say you should expect to pay the following approximate prices for Florida grouper in restaurants: high-end restaurant, entree $21 to $27, sandwich $13 to $16; middle-price restaurant, entree $16 to $20, sandwich $10 to $12; lower-price restaurant, entree $14 to $16, sandwich $8 to $10.

Another consumer issue is the correct labeling of packaged weight for individually quick-frozen seafood, especially shrimp or lobster tail with an ice coating known as a glaze. The net weight listed on the package must be the "unglazed" weight of the product. For weighing purposes, the product should be rinsed only long enough to remove the glaze. If the glaze is excessive and the consumer is charged for excess ice, it is mislabeled.

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