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Using DNA barcoding to track seafood mislabeling in Los Angeles restaurants


  • Authors’ mailing address (at time of research): For DAW, SES, SHC, TLK, HN, RR, and PHB – 2140 Terasaki Life Science Building, 610 Charles E. Young Dr. South, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095; SE and NP – 188 Life Science Building, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045

  • This article has been accepted for publication and undergone full peer review but has not been through the copyediting, typesetting, pagination and proofreading process, which may lead to differences between this version and the Version of Record. Please cite this article as doi: 10.1111/cobi.12888


Seafood mislabeling is common in both domestic and international markets. Previous studies on seafood fraud often report high rates of mislabeling (e.g. >70%), but these studies have been limited to a single sampling year, making it difficult to assess the impact of stricter governmental truth-in-labeling regulations. This study uses DNA barcoding to assess seafood mislabeling in Los Angeles over a four-year period. Sushi restaurants had a consistently high percentage of mislabeling (47%) from 2012 to 2015, yet mislabeling was not homogenous across species. Menu-listed halibut, red snapper, yellowfin tuna, and yellowtail had consistently high occurrences of mislabeling, whereas mislabeling of salmon and mackerel were typically low. All sampled sushi restaurants had at least one case of mislabeling. Mislabeling of sushi-grade fish from high-end grocers was also identified in red snapper, yellowfin tuna, and yellowtail, but at a slightly lower frequency (42%) than sushi restaurants. Results show that despite increased regulatory measures and media attention, seafood mislabeling continues to be prevalent.

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