There has been a lot in the news about food fraud lately, starting with the horse meat scandal in Europe and quickly followed by the reemergence of seafood fraud in the United States. The seafood fraud is different because instead of unwanted fish being snuck into things like lasagna or Ikea meatballs, consumers are being served one whole fish while thinking it is another.
One could ask, does it really matter which fish you’re being served? If fish is good for you, who cares? We care, and here’s why:
1- Not all fish are created equal
There are many fish I personally wouldn’t eat because of their high levels of methylmercury, like tuna or swordfish. Perhaps one exposure is no big deal, but it should be a choice. Other fish have high risk of ciguateralike barracuda or groupers from certain areas. Ask anyone who’s had it before, if you get ciguatera once, it is bad news.
There is also the issue of nutrition. Not all fish have the same levels of omega 3 fatty acids, or the same ratio of omega 3 to omega 6, so although they are a good source of protein they are not the super brain food the consumer might be hoping for.
2- If the fish is wild, I want to know where it was fished
Not all fisheries are the same. I know I am not alone in making sure I eat from sustainably fished stocks. I also don’t want a fish taken from polluted waters or even one taken from too far away from me. Local fish for me, please. Carbon footprints don’t taste too good.
3- If the fish is farm raised, I want to know where it was farmed
Not all farms are the same. I learned this watching Fish Meat. I want fish farmed in an environmentally responsible way, with little to no environmental impact, including low pollution, no escapes into the wild to affect local genetics or ecosystems, and a low FCR so not many fish are taken out of oceans to feed the farmed fish. I know this is possible so I seek out the best options available to me and my family.
4- Lies hurt everyone
Seafood fraud is dishonest, and allowing a culture of dishonesty in the food supply chain endangers customers and lowers quality and eventually, value. Shifty fish will become cheap fish and everyone loses.
Seafood fraud makes asking questions even more important than before. We need to let restaurants and supermarkets know that we care where our seafood comes from. As we have seen, even experts can get duped. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying. It may not have occurred to the fish monger that where it came from actually matters. This is an important conversation for us to start.