Fish availability in supermarkets and fish markets in New Jersey

Joanna Burger, Alan H. Stern, Carline Dixon, Christopher Jeitner, Sheila Shukla, Sean Burke, Michael Gochfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


There is considerable interest in fish consumption, contaminant loads in edible fish, and the risk from consuming fish. Both the benefits and the risks from eating fish are publicized. Most of this attention has focused on recreational anglers and self-caught fish, although the vast majority of fish that people eat are purchased from commercial sources: fish markets and supermarkets. We examined the availability of fish in supermarkets and specialty fish markets in New Jersey, including three regions of the state in communities with high and low per capita incomes (upscale vs. downscale neighborhoods). We were particularly interested in examining whether consumers could determine what type of fish they were buying and whether it was farm-raised or wild. Flounder and salmon were the most commonly available fish, followed by bluefish and tilapia. There were few significant differences in the availability of fish as a function of region. Fish were equally available in fish markets and supermarkets, although snappers were more available in fish markets. The most common fish (found in over 60% of stores) were equally available in upscale and downscale neighborhood stores. However, there were some significant differences in less common fish; butterfish, croaker, monkfish, porgy, and whiting were more available in downscale markets, and halibut, sole, and swordfish were more available in upscale markets. Information available to consumers on labels varied markedly: (1) most labels were generic but some indicated species (e.g., Spanish vs. Boston mackerel, Chilean vs. Black sea bass, mako vs. black-tip shark, rainbow vs. steelhead trout); (2) in many cases, labels indicated whether catfish or salmon were farmed or wild, but usually that information was lacking; (3) sometimes, the labels indicated the location where fish were caught (salmon); and (4) sometimes, there was information on both species and type (e.g., farm/wild for salmon). In most cases, labels gave only a fish name and price. Consumers would be able to make more informed choices if the provenance of fish was clearly stated. State agencies might improve information available to consumers by providing distributors and markets with guidelines about the types of information necessary for consumers to make informed decisions about the fish they eat. When asked, counter staff often could not answer where fish originated from. Finally, there should be partnerships between government agencies responsible for public health, risk assessors, and consumers to ascertain the types of information consumers want and to provide the best available information to consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-97
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 15 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


  • Commercial fish
  • Fish consumption
  • Human health
  • Risk

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