Tricks of the Trade

Cranberries masquerading as blueberries, and other ways diners and shoppers are being duped.
3:00 | 11/17/12

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Transcript for Tricks of the Trade
Mick jagger said it best, you can't always get what you want. But when it comes to the food industry, what might fit better, is you can't always get what you think you're getting. With some of the tricks the trade is using, what can end up on your table isn't what the pilgrims had in mind or what you had in mind either. Here's jim avila. Reporter: We begin with a thanksgiving riddle. When are cranberries not cranberries at all? How about when they're dye d blue and put in your cereal bars, pretending to be blueberries. But it looks like there are real blueberries inside! What are those? Reporter: Can a turkey still be called natural when it's unnaturally pumped with a laboring solution, and what's a white tuna? White tuna doesn't exist. There is to species called white tuna. Reporter: As we approach thanksgiving, the celebration feast, we bring you food for thought. The even side word on those outside labels. The supermarkets are filled right now with the organic, fresh and natural. But is it still natural if the labeling also says the turkey has been injected with "a solution to enhance tenderness"? The usda says yes, a turkey may contain a solution of water, salt and other natural flavoring to enhance juiciness and tenderness as long as it's labeled and the solution is natural, the turkey is considered natural. Just remember you are paying turkey prices for the extra weight of water and salt. Now to the great cranberry/blueberry hoax. Sure they dress up any thanksgiving day spread, but every other day of the year cranberries can be found dressing up themselves like expensive blueberries. Some food manufacturers simply substitute one for the other. You should trust food manufacturers about as much as you would trust a used car salesman. Reporter: Michael jacobson's watchdog group has been battling big name companies for more accurate packaging for decades. It's a fight they are not winning. The labels are designed basically to trick consumers into buying the product. Reporter: He points to products like these "blueberry muffin frosted mini eats." A check of the ingredients reveals it has zero blueberries. This box of special k fruit and yogurt cereal features images of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries on the box, but the fruit inside the box is dried apples. Even pop-tarts, rarely confused as a healthy snack option, features a blueberry on its "wild berry" box. There are dried strawberries, apples and pears inside, but no blueberries in sight in the ingredients list. It doesn't have any blueberries in it. No, it doesn't. Reporter: Who is right? There are berries in the product but the blueberry flavored fruit pieces are actually made with -- there they are -- cranberries. I feel a little betrayed. Maybe it says something about us as a culture that we'll eat something that is not the real thing. Reporter: The words "naturally" age "article fishily flavored" can be found on the front of the package though much smaller than the big juicy blue berri berries. The good print giveth, and the small print taketh away. That's sufficient to comply with the law, a small company would say. Reporter: The bait and switch. What happens when there's no box to read, no list of ingredients. In other words, what about seafood? Americans love their fish, consuming more than 4.7 billion pounds of it last year. But an abc investigation reveals consumers often don't get what they pay for. If you go to los angeles and eat red snapper every day for the next 30 days, you will never see red snapper. Odds are very, very long about it if you just pick a random restaurant. Reporter: All over america, consumers are being overcharged for less desirable fish and served seafood different from the one on the menu. I'm a marine biologist, I've been eating fish for years, and you put a nice cream lemon sauce on it, I don't think anybody can tell the difference. Reporter: Mislabeling can be profitable. Just look what a little creative branding can do. Ocean percn masquerading as red snapper. The numbers don't add up. 40,000 fish of copper river salmon were sold last year. Well, sorry, but only 1200 fish were actually caught in copper river last year. Reporter: Chef barton seaver is an author, national geographic fellow and a graduate of the prestigious culinary institute of america. He recently purchased a container of world famous maryland blue crab -- or so he thought. These are big lumps. Reporter: He sent a picture of the crab to a friend at the maryland tate fisheries and got a two-word reply. It's asian. Reporter: Clearly to him right away. Clearly to him right away and it was embarrassing to me almost because this is my life. This is what I do and yet I had even been duped. Reporter: Duped into paying more for what he says is an inferior product that came not from maryland, but from indonesia. What we found in our abc news investigation that began 18 months ago is shocking. We collected sushi in major cities. The white tuna and super white tuna samples were then sent to nova southeastern university in florida for testing. Each compared against a broad dna database of fish species to see if they were tuna at all. So collectively it's an 86% substitution rate, which is really remarkably high. 86% of white tuna turned out to be something completely different. Reporter: That's right, nearly nine out of ten white tuna sushi was not tuna at all. That couldn't be right, so we went back to the same new york city restaurants, bought more sushi and sent those in to be analyzed. And again, the testing revealed nearly all of the white tuna samples were really escolar, aka the "ex-lax" fish. This fish contains chemicals called waxy esters that can cause gastrointestinal distress. Reporter: The findings did not surprise dr. Michael hirschfield who conducted a much larger test for oceana with similar results. I would be astonished if anyone buying white tuna or super white tuna at a sushi restaurant, got anything other than escolar. Reporter: More numbers that are hard to swallow. 85ll fish eaten in this country is imported, and yet less than 2% is actually fda inspected. And that's the problem. There is no traceability in the system. So it's not just I can't tell you what species it is, I can't tell you how it was farmed or to what standards it was produced. I can't guarantee the safety of that and that's really why people should care.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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