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Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
From New York to New Orleans to Oregon, consumers are being misled about the shrimp they're buying, according to a survey by the advocacy group Oceana.
Cheap, imported farm-raised shrimp is being sold as prized wild-caught Gulf shrimp while common, more plentiful shrimp is being sold as premium. And shrimp of all kinds is sold with no indication whatsoever about where it came from, the group said.
Shrimp caught in the open oceans is considered superior in taste, texture and healthiness compared with farm-raised shrimp that tend to be more rubbery and without the distinct salty taste of the sea. Imports of farm-raised shrimp have skyrocketed in recent years, coinciding with shrimp's ascent as the nation's most popular seafood.
Oceana said it found about 30 percent of 143 shrimp products bought from 111 vendors were not what the label said. Bad labeling was discovered on shrimp sold at national and regional supermarkets and smaller grocery stores alike. Restaurants, from national chains to high-dollar eateries, were also selling poorly labeled shrimp, the group said. The survey looked at shrimp sold in Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; and various spots around the Gulf of Mexico as well as New York City, which it deemed the worst offender.
The group acknowledged that the survey was a small sample, but said it used a technique involving DNA to trace the shrimp's roots. The group did a similar survey last year for fish and made similar findings. In that report, Oceana said consumers routinely are misled into believing they're buying tuna and red snapper when in reality they're getting less expensive fish. Oceana is urging Congress and regulators to enforce proper labeling.
The group's report came as no surprise to fishermen and others involved in the shrimp industry. "I've been shouting this for ages from the rooftop," said Kimberly Chauvin, who runs a family shrimp business with fishing boats and docks in Chauvin, Louisiana.
Lauren Sucher, an FDA spokeswoman, said mislabeling is illegal and pointed out that the agency inspects and enforces labeling laws, handing out warnings and fines.