500 restauranteurs, including celebrity chefs, sign a petition denouncing seafood fraud
Last year, I wrote about a new technique that allows scientists to identify the types of fish contained in processed foods, like crab sticks – those neon orange chunks of “imitation crab meat” sushi chefs put in California rolls.
Despite what many of the seafood labels claimed, the researchers found that a typical crab stick contained between three and seven different species of fish.
This is a big problem, because some people are allergic to certain types of fish, and rely heavily on labeling to avoid their fishy foes. In addition, the undeclared fish species in processed foods sometimes turn out to be subject to strict fishing regulations, putting entire ecosystems at risk, and making fishing practices hard to track.
In light of these types of findings, consumers and restauranteurs alike have been demanding stricter regulations. Until now, they have had little success. But, a National Geographic blog post written by celebrity chef Barton Seaver, who was recently tricked into buying mislabeled crab meat, and a letter penned by California Senator Barbara Boxer, demanding action from the FDA, has re-energized ichthyophiles and environmentalists everywhere.
This new-found enthusiasm has pushed a group of more than 500 chefs and restauranteurs, including Food Network’s Mario Batali, to sign a petition demanding seafood traceability. They sent the petition, released on October 25th, to US Congress and the FDA.
In the petition, the crime-fighting foodies state that it is unrealistic to ask restaurant owners and consumers to accurately identify each species of fish at the time of purchase. They would like the US government to make it mandatory for fisheries and fishing companies to provide tracing information with each piece of fish, making mislabeling much harder to accomplish.
Mislabeling seafood is common. Typically, a fraudster will label a cheap type of fish, like Rockfish, as a much fancier and more expensive Red Snapper, enabling restauranteurs or fish mongers to make a sizable profit.
Another fraudulent practice has to do with adding water-retaining additives to seafood, such as scallops, so that the mollusks tip the scale in the vendors favor when it’s time to pay.
The petitioners recognize that seafood fraud puts a considerable amount of stress on most seafood-lovers’ bank accounts. On oceana.org they state that they are:
‘committed to serving seafood that protects our oceans, our wallets and our health.’
Although Batali’s wallet probably doesn’t need much protecting – I don’t really want to mess with that guy… do you? – I commend their efforts to finally put an end to seafood fraud. It’s about time someone cracks down on this fishy practice.
*Please excuse all the bad fish jokes – I had a tough time scaling it back*