Something fishy about your seafood

If you've paid big money for wild-caught salmon, you may have paid too much -- because salmon isn't always what it appears to be.

In too many cases, that "wild-caught" salmon is a finned fraud... farmed salmon deliberately mislabeled in an attempt to rob you of your hard-earned grocery money.

It doesn't end with salmon, either.

In a series of recent DNA tests carried out across the country, the Oceana organization found fish such as salmon, grouper, snapper, and cod mislabeled with alarming frequency in restaurants and supermarkets.

In Los Angeles, 55 percent of the fish were fakes. In Boston, it was 48 percent. It was 36 percent in Monterey and 31 percent in Miami.

This isn't just a matter of getting what you paid for, although that's certainly part of it. There are health issues involved here, too -- big ones.

For example, king mackerel is often sold as grouper. Just one problem: King mackerel is known for its high mercury content and shouldn't be eaten at all. So they just call it grouper and hope no one notices.

With a little lemon butter, they taste pretty much the same.

And that salmon I mentioned earlier? Farmed salmon can be loaded with drugs such as antibiotics and chemical contaminants like PCBs.

If that's not enough, farmed salmon isn't even as healthy as wild salmon -- it has higher levels of fat, but much lower levels of the omega-3 fatty acids that help make salmon such a great choice.

And because the farmed fish are higher in fat, they're lower in healthy lean protein.

Short of catching the fish yourself, it's tough to know what's what -- but if you know your fish, you can cut down on some of the fraud by buying whole fish instead of filets.

Grouper and king mackerel, for example, don't look anything like each other.

And when it comes to salmon, do your homework. Make sure you know where your shop is getting its fish from, and don't make assumptions just because you've been shopping at the same place for years.

If they say their fish is wild caught, ask them to prove it -- and if they can't, shop someplace else.