MARKETPLACE: EPISODE #37-09 | Broadcast on April 2, 2010
Erica Johnson puts supermarket fish to the test: are you really getting what you pay for? CommentComment
What's the real story behind the prices at Easyhome? CommentComment
The label may say cod, but the lab says something's fishy
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Erica Johnson puts supermarket fish to the test: are you really getting what you pay for?
ABOUT LABELS: What's in a label?
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When you go to the supermarket and buy fish, you rely on the label to tell you what kind of fish you're getting.

Unfortunately, when it comes to seafood, you may not be getting what you pay for.

Using cutting-edge technology, we test more than 150 pieces of fish -- everything from halibut to pickerel, sea bass to shark -- bought at supermarkets in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

The results? We discover that one out of every five fish is mislabelled, which means many Canadians are being overcharged, left unable to make wise ecological choices, and are vulnerable to food safety concerns.

So what does Canada's food safety and labeling regulator, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, have to say about this? Erica Johnson takes the results of our investigation and gets some surprising answers.
Posted on April 2, 2010 CommentBookmark, Email & Share
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Thank you for this episode and responding to my complaint about stores I made to your hotline. Looks like you people really to read your mail ;-)

One thing I have noticed is the lies purported by head offices... saying there "...are no Canadian salmon, therefore we MUST buy Chinese salmon." I have confronted several retailers with the fact they lied and that a major food wholesaler on the west coast has indeed, confirmed sockeye salmon (I have a case in my freezer right now). I was literally hung-up on by a VERY large grocery store chain (let's just say they're one of two that have a hope against Wal-Mart food stores).

Ha, EasyMoneyLoss.

The supermarkets are just taking advantage of our general ignorance about fish and seafood, as shown, for example, by your mispronouncing of "fillet" [note the double "l"] to make it sound like "filet" as in "beef filet mignon" It's not just an arcane pedantic question of pronunciation; fillet [accent on the first syllable] or filleting [the "t" is pronounced in both]are terms that are unique to fish preparation and cooking.

Love your show.

I saw this episode. As usual, when questioned, the corporate mouthpieces baffle-gabbed the problem off as 'human error'.

So here's a question: What was the 'direction' of each error? In other words, how many of the 'errors' were inferior fish (cheaper fish) being sold as more expensive fish, vs superior fish (more expensive fish) being sold as less expensive?

If it were truly human error, you'd kind of expect something like a 50/50 split in the 'directions' of the 'errors'.

I'm willing to bet if you look at the 'directions' of the errors, you'll find that one 'direction' is a LOT more prevalent than the other. You guess which.

Human - YES.
Error - I seriously doubt it.

Someone should ask what the CFIA is or has done in regards to dealing with fraud. The compliance rate would have been a lot higher if you went to independant stores and fishmongers. Try going to a sushi restaurant in Toronto for a real lesson in mislabelling.

There is no shame in what you reported nor did you goof. There are indeed five species of Pacific salmon - chinook, coho, sockeye, chum and pink - which vary in size, colour, texture, and fat content but share a superb taste, high protein content, and low saturated fat and high polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid content. In the fall, chum (keta) salmon are harvested while migrating through Johnstone Straight. Feeding on ocean jellies, the finest keta is ocean caught when it is still “silver-bright” in colour and with a reddish-pink flesh that will turn white as the fish approaches and enters the river system. With a lower fat content, firm flesh and a distinctive flavor, keta appeals to those seeking a milder salmon taste. It was once referred to as dog salmon because of the canine-looking teeth that males develop during spawning.

@Peter Wright

Here on the west coast, we have Wild BC spotted prawns and I suspect that is what the 'C' restaurant was serving. It taste like mini lobsters and in my opinion way better than rubbery farmed asian shrimp/tiger prawns.

Hi Marketplace,

I love your program and the stories, journalism and production content are great. My only complaint, both as a fan of the show and a taxpayer, is why is the broadcast not offered as a podcast. Not everyone gets CBC TV off air or subscribes to cable or satellite service. I wish I could download your show as a podcast, then take it on the road with me and enjoy your great work.

Please advise.



Fishpharms pollute by concentrating so many fish into inshore waters where they trigger toxic algal blooms. They waste scarce resources by feeding South American "food fish" to Atlantic Salmon eaten in North America. I never eat the stuff. W/O added chemicals and drugs the buggers just roll belly up and die. It's a bad industry that produces a bad product. Don't buy pharmfish. If the Pharma feed lots were really farms they wouldn't cause the death of other species near them. Calling them farms is a toxic lie. Don't buy pharmfish. Yukko! The orange colour comes from krill. What are the great baleen whales supposed to eat. Shame and super Yukko!

Good program. As a BC fisherman, I would like consumers to know that producing high quality seafood in a sustainable manner means fishers costs are higher. BC halibut for example is now Marine Stewardship Council certified. This certification and the regular audit costs are paid by the fishers and processors. They are substantial. Halibut fishers must carry cameras and have the resulting record audited to ensure sustainable fishing occurs. More cost. When consumers reward quality and sustainability by favoring those products produced in this way, there is pressure for more fisheries to come on board. Unfortunately as your program points out, Canada's lax labeling laws means much of our effort is for naught. In the case of lower quality substitutions for example farmed fish labeled wild, consumers are not going to know what our product really tastes like and may never try it again.

'Something Fishy'
My wife and I frequently purchased Presidents Choice ' Haddock and Hops'. I happened to notice that the country of origin was not shown, so I emailed Loblaws, after several emails and several months they finally informed me the product came from China. Understandably we no longer purchase any of these items, or any of their other frozen fish all of which comes from China. Farmed Salmon and Trout are also to be avoided, as is all shrimp which also comes from China!
Peter Epps

I'm a bit confused. I just took a look at the pdf and Marketplace is saying that Chilean Sea Bass was mislabelled and should have been called Patagonian toothfish. But this is the same fish!!

Considering the nature of your show, I am uncomfortable with the use of the iPad/iPhone in your segment. It is not necessary to show your points on a screen within the screen.

I am sure that CBC is short of cash, but I do not like hidden advertisements, and would much prefer to pay more tax in order to avoid them.



...Sobeys, Loblaws, Metro,.....

Time after time, it's not human error, it's gouging the customers Canadian way...

And for those who see "Wild Pacific Salmon" and think that it came from the Pacific Coast of North America? Think again and read the label. That salmon is from China. Was it wild? How was it fished? We know at least that it is not from the Atlantic. But it's deceptive, in my opinion. (Maybe it's wild because it's not happy to be caught?)
Not funny, I know.

I really enjoyed that report.But then,I can't afford to buy any fish except canned tuna or those 4 packs of frozen salmon.Even though the yuppies might be miffed at not getting what they thought,at least they're getting their 'fish intake',right? P.S. I loved the SPIN by the gov't rep.75%=good??? Bob Lynch

Shame on you! There is no species of fish called "Pacific Salmon", as there is a species of fish called, Atlantic salmon. There are quite a number of species of Pacific salmon, such as Chinook,Sockeye, Chum, Coho, Pink etc. The price you pay depends on the species you buy, with Chum nicknamed dog salmon, (as this is what First Nations often feed to their dogs). Once tasted the reason is obvious. There are fish food companies that say - Wild Pacific salmon and ingredients in small print will say, either pink or chum. Pink does have a pleasant mild flavour and is relatively cheap compared to other wild pacific salmon species. No one I know in B.C. would buy chum at any price. Love your show but this time you goofed. the private sector a 22% error rate would get you fired not an inflation adjusted pension

I go to the supermarket and look for canned B. C. Salmon , for thats the good stuff and find nothing but Alaska Salmon on all the lids . I have always wondered what inside the cans is it real Wild Alaska Salmon from Bristol Bay or just Farmed Raised Salmon from Alaska ? Salmon in cans, where do you come from,could it even be Russia and canned in Alaska and are you brough up Wild and Free ? Terry

What I would like to know is the nutrisheous value of fish that is farmed the same as the wild fish? and do they add hormons into the farmed fish?
Once again we cannot count or trust information that is on the labels. It is overwhelming when you think about it. With our busy schedule how can we check everything dihonnest that comes our way
Thanks Marketplace in helping us in making wise descisions.

Being a halibut fisherman on the east coast, it was discouraging to here you say that atlantic halibut is "considered by conservationists to be endangered." The atlantic halibut fishery is one area where quotas haven't been cut. After watching your show, which had lots of good information, millions of people now think we are fishing an endangered species. How can this possibly help marketing of this product? Many people rely on this fishery to support their families. With a continuing decrease in demand and lower prices any negativity is too much. I know you can't please everyone, but please get the facts. Great show otherwise.

Two comments, but it was a great program, but obviously disturbing to those of us that love eating fish.
Firstly, I would have liked the program to address the reliability of seafood carrying the Marine Stewardship Council label... Is this label credible? Loblaws is apparently supporting it, and many of their frozen fish products carry this label.

Secondly, your plate of "sustainable" seafood from Vancouver appeared to include shrimp. How does one get it?
We cannot find shrimp that is not farmed and/or comes from Asia, or South America, and we have seen disturbing reports about both sources.We are feeling severely shrimp deprived!

Thanks for addressing this issue, Peter Wright.

I was just wondering two things. How did the people at Marketplace choose what stores to audit? I shop frequently at IGA and am now wondering about their fish section. In addition, I would ask about marked kosher fish, the price is often higher but if you buy it, is it labelled correctly? I would assume so, but there might be some fake kosher or misleading symbols.

Also in the name of reducing emissions, how did the broadcaster move from Vancouver to Toronto to Montreal to collect the samples then to the testing center in Guelph, Ontario, and back to Vancouver to ask people their reaction to the news? Or is this perception just in the way the show is edited?

Thanks, great show.

Strictly speaking ONCORHYNCHUS KETA AND GORBUSCHA are from the Trout family while "salmon" is SALMO SALAR. They just look like salmon. The salmon industry has done a fantastic job in maintaining a quality fish like salmon at the same price for 15 years! What other protein can claim such a record.

15 years ago farmed salmon went to $4.50 per's still at the same price.Back then everyone was saying the market was going to be flooded with cheap farmed salmon...the only thing flooded was the middlemans bank account.The slave labour workers didn't get much of a flood into their bank accounts.Here in Newfoundland in the middle of the atlantic our farmed salmon comes from chili..we pay $8.25/kilo for salmon fillet from Chili.Great show again tonight.

When to Watch
Fridays 8:30 p.m.
(9 p.m. Newfoundland & Labrador)
Saturdays at 5:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m.
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