Vital Choice and Dr. Weil tip NYT to "wild Salmon" scam
Contact: Erin Knapp
(360) 603-9456 ext. 121
BELLINGHAM, WA. July 3, 2006. The August, 2006 issue of America’s leading consumer protection and product-rating magazine features an expose concerning a wild Salmon bait-and-switch con game.
The report echoes the point of a story first broken by The New York Times, thanks to a tip provided by Vital Choice co-founder Randy Hartnell.
On April 10, 2005, The New York Times published the findings of its investigation into the Salmon bait-and-switch scam, which resulted from Hartnell's November, 2004 trip to Fulton Fish market. He was there to be interviewed, with bestselling author Andrew Weil, M.D., for a syndicated television news story about the health benefits of omega-3s, Salmon as the premier healthy source, and the distinction between wild and farmed Salmon.
As they roamed among the fish mongers, Mr. Hartnell and Dr. Weil came upon stacks of boxes labeled “Wild King Salmon,” in an area used by a major regional distributor.
According to Hartnell, “We knew fresh wild King Salmon was out of season, so I asked the distributor where he was getting it. To our amazement, he admitted, with no apparent shame or embarrassment, that the Salmon in the boxes were actually farm-raised wild king Salmon. “He admitted that the regional supermarket and restaurants he supplies were very price-sensitive, so the mislabeling was good for business."
Mr. Hartnell relayed his experience to New York Times food reporter Marion Burros, which prompted an investigation by the newspaper.
A few months later, The New York Times published findings (“Stores Say Wild Salmon, but Tests Say Farm Bred”) that confirmed Mr. Hartnell's tip, and revealed that the Salmon scam was ubiquitous in New York City.
While retailers and restaurants have a significant economic incentive to mislabel farmed Salmon as wild Salmon, some may be unwitting victims of the common con game.
Consumer watchdog confirms NYT and Vital Choice findings
Their lab tests revealed that only 10 of the 23 fillets were Salmon caught in the wild, and that the rest were from farm-raised Salmon. Fraud was not encountered when they purchased Salmon labeled “wild” during the height of the Salmon-harvest season in the summer of 2005, when tests showed that all 27 Salmon purchased really were wild-harvested.
Interestingly, they bought two unlabeled salmon that salespeople said were “organic”, despite the absence then of a federal rule allowing the use of the organic label on fish. Lab tests showed that both fish were farm-raised.
Avoiding the salmon scam: tips for the consumer
Here’s our take on the magazine's tips:
We offered our own scam-avoidance tip when we broke the Fulton Fish Market story in December of 2004: Know your source!
Unless you are very familiar with Salmon, it is hard to know whether Salmon sold in supermarket cases is wild Alaskan or farmed Atlantic. Those who are experienced with both may detect visual differences, and will almost certainly taste the difference.
As Mr. Hartnell said, “By the time your senses indicate a possible Salmon scam, it is too late. The surest way to know you are getting authentic wild Salmon is to buy it from a knowledgeable, trusted vendor.”
© 2006 Vital Choice, Inc.