Guru Rabbit

Turn a new leaf (and EAT it)

What’s in a name? June 6, 2011

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info — rabbit @ 11:21 am
Tags: , ,

Perhaps a lot of lies.  At least when it comes to the fish on your plate.

When you go to Bonefish Grill, can you tell if your grouper is really grouper?  I mean, it’s just white fish.  There’s lots of white fish out there.  When you order salmon because it’s wild-caught, can you taste if it’s actually farm-raised?  And what exactly is the difference between the red snapper in your sushi and perch or tilapia?

It’s okay, I wouldn’t know either.  I feel that perhaps I’m late in stumbling upon this news, probably because I haven’t eaten seafood in… I can’t even remember.  But I had no idea that there was so much seafood misnaming going on.  I mean, I expect the fast food industry to lie to us.  I’m sure we all knew before that silly lawsuit that Taco Bell does not serve straight-up beef.  And if you didn’t well… a reality check is needed.  But seafood seems like a pretty important thing to be truthful about.  I mean, at least we know when it’s real crab, and when it’s “krab”, right?  Right?

If you’re a seafood fanatic, and care about what you eat, I think it’d be a good idea to read this article.  (Actually, just read it anyway.)  It is three years old, granted, but thoroughly explains what has been going on for over thirty years, and yes, it’s still a problem.  It comes as no surprise that the FDA laws for seafood labeling are flexible, and apparently easy to walk under.  Umbrella terms and euphemisms are used to label all sorts of fish caught around the world.  Most of our seafood comes from outside the country, which allows for a lot of leeway between what the fish really is and what it’s called.  And legal or not, fisheries make way too much profit to quit.  Being fined is no big deal when the penalty is merely a fraction of what you make in a year.  It’s very possible and likely for consumers to be unknowingly eating fish that are endangered, toxic, and/or produced to us in a way that is detrimental to the environment.  Terms like “frozen fish fillet”, “cod”, and “orange roughy” mean nothing and everything– nothing in terms of standards, and everything in terms of what it really could be.  The product itself doesn’t matter, it’s the name that will sell it, because we don’t know any better.  In fact, there’s no such fish as pacific red snapper.  The FDA allows for thirteen different species of rockfish along the west coast to be sold under that name.  Even if the imposter is not harmful to you or the environment, what are you paying for?

A more recent article from Oceana breaks down the harmful effects of seafood mislabeling.  I feel it’s a slap in the face, both to honest fishermen, and to consumers who are trying to make conscious decisions, people who want to choose fish that is healthy, abundant, and has a low environmental impact.  And for those who can’t afford much of a choice in fish, it’s more like shoving their faces in the mud.  It’s amazing that people get away with this.  And if it’s happening with seafood, where else is it happening?

You wanna hear some good news, now?  It’s the reason I found the first article.  Because once that fish is beheaded, scaled, gutted, and fileted, you can’t really tell, right?  Except for DNA testing.  That’s how the fraudulence had been discovered in the first place, in university science labs.  Now, assuming the FDA follows through, routine DNA testing will be implemented, using technology that can quickly identify the genetic sequences of thousands of species.  Whoa.  That means it will be easier to target fisheries who are committing fraud, allow legitimate ones to have their honesty rewarded, and bring more product transparency to the consumer.

So the next time you open up a can of tuna… hopefully it’s really tuna, and not the Little Mermaid.

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