WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) Most of the seafood in the U.S. is imported, a lot of it from overseas suppliers. An investigation found that a lot of the fish tested have alarming issues, including the use of improper drugs in the fish that could be hazardous to your health. That's led to calls for accountability from local fishermen and concerns about food safety.
It's estimated more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported. Only 2 to 4 percent of processors and importers are tested by the government, which leaves open the possibility for fish fraud.
One study of retailers showed seafood like grouper, cod, or snapper may be mislabeled up to 87 percent of the time, and it's often being swapped out for cheaper fish. In one study only seven out of 120 examples of red snapper were actually red snapper.
Vermont is a landlocked state. The seafood you buy here comes from somewhere else, so when going shopping, it's important to make sure you get what you're paying for.
Some customers stopping by Vermont Meat & Seafood in Williston are there to get fish for dinner.
"They've got the freshest around," said Pat Mueller, who says she's been coming here since the business opened nine years ago. "It makes a difference when fish is fresh, you can really tell. You can smell it."
"Our customers know they can trust us," said Eric LaVigne, the co-owner of Vermont Meat & Seafood. He says they work with local vendors who have reputable contacts in the Boston Fish Market. "They've been doing it for decades. And the whole industry is based around reputation. If anyone got caught selling red snapper that was not red snapper, no one would buy from them anymore."
LaVigne says on the rare occasion that they get seafood that doesn't measure up, they send it back. "We expect a high standard of quality." he said.
They're not shy about getting harder-to-find varieties -- monkfish, wild striped- bass, skate wings, and more. Still, it's not imported from the far east. Most of the fish in their case comes from the Atlantic, specifically the Gulf of Maine. Almost all is wild-caught -- from boat to their display case in a few days, and preservative-free.
"It's always nice to not have chemicals in the food. We eat it too -- our employees, my business partner -- so we don't want to be feeding our families and friends chemical-loaded fish where who knows where it was caught," LaVigne
That peace of mind is something customers like Mueller say is worth paying a few more bucks for. "Well, who wants to be eating a bunch of chemicals?" he said.
What should you look for when you're buying fish? LaVigne offers a few tips:
-Buy wild-caught fish as much as possible.
-In fish like swordfish or mahi-mahi, look for a bright red blood vein, not brown or greyish ones.
-Your white fish should be white, not going yellow or brown.
-And if the fish is in your fridge for a couple days and doesn't smell, that's a sign it's probably covered in preservatives or was previously frozen. He says, you want your fish to smell like fish.
- Ask questions. If the person behind the counter can't answer them, maybe choose a different source.