The Daily Shot, Ricochet, January 16, 2017
First things first: If you enjoy calamari, and are one of those people who gets anxious when you know what’s actually in your food, you may want to skip to the next item. Consider yourself warned.
Researchers from UCLA and Loyola Marymount University have just come out with the results of a four-year-long study that fish fraud is still very much a thing. Of 364 samples from Los Angeles sushi restaurants, 47 percent of the fish was mislabelled. (It was one rough study. These researchers had to go out for sushi a bunch of times to collect “samples.”)
It’s not uniform over all fish. Salmon was actually salmon, like, 90 percent of the time. But 70 percent of yellowfin tuna turned out to be something else when it was DNA tested. The worst were halibut and red snapper, which almost always were something else.
Of course, when you’re talking about counterfeit seafood, we couldn’t help but be reminded of a This American Life episode from a few years ago where they investigated an urban legend about counterfeit calamari. The tale was that it wasn’t seafood at all, but was actually pig rectum, or as it was charmingly referred to in the piece, “hog bung.” (Hey look, we warned you…) They couldn’t come to any conclusions, but when they fried up some hog bung, it was indistinguishable from real calamari.
Why fish fraud? Money, of course. Without a DNA lab, you usually can’t tell if someone is selling you real red snapper or counterfeit. (And while we’re on the subject, “sushi-grade fish” may not be all it’s cracked up to be either.)