Monday, October 31, 2011

Something Fishy This Way Comes

An investigation by Consumer Reports alleges that the seafood we are buying is either not what it seems, or could be something altogether different than its label.  This is pretty frightening given that most consumers are wanting to add more seafood  to their diets, in search of a healthier alternatives to animal protein.  The problem is that we believe what we are told most of the time:  if the sign says "halibut" and the price is sky high, who are you to believe otherwise?

Wild Alaskan Halibut

This really is a case of buyer beware.  If you are buying your seafood at a supermarket, chances are you will get something that may not be labeled correctly, and that guy behind the seafood counter is probably the same guy who is sometimes checking you out when you are done with your shopping. Buying your seafood from a fish market should be a better bet, and Whole Foods did pretty well with their labeling.

 In the case of salmon, there were huge discrepancies, when the fish was labeled; some King Salmon was actually Coho, some sockeye was actually coho, and beware of farmed salmon, grown in congested, small "pens", where the salmon are fed corn and soy pellets, and do not have the diet that salmon eat in the wild.  Farm salmon is low in the Omega 3's that we would like to have in our diet and contains the highest levels of PCB's of any animal protein.  The salmon is further insulted, by having color added to its skin. 

Farm Salmon

Farm Salmon before the injectable dye

Buy wild line caught salmon.  The FDA has yet to rule on the genetically modified salmon that the industry is touting as the next best thing; it is injected with a gene from the "ocean pout" a member of the eel family--it will grow twice as large in half the time that it takes a wild salmon to grow.  Problem is, once it's genetically modified, it's not really a salmon anymore.

  The report stated that "grouper" (above) was mislabeled, and was actually tilefish, which has three times as much mercury as grouper.  The FDA advises women of childbearing age and children to avoid tilefish, yet stores are selling it under the name "grouper".  Buyer beware--this is what tile fish looks like:

Filet of sole, a mild fish that is generally available in markets, was mislabeled, or not even the same fish in 1/2 of the Consumer Reports samples.  Some were labeled sole, but were in fact, turbot, catfish or flounder.  All of these fish would cost the purveyor less than the real thing. 

Many fish are on the endangered list, because they have been over-fished.  To find out which fish are fit to eat, click here  go to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site, or here to go to the Marine Stewardship Council.  These sites will fill you in on what you need to know.  Next time you go to the supermarket be prepared, and if it says swordfish, maybe it was this guy once upon a time.

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