Sunday, October 23, 2011

False advertising on the fish menu

The sliver of raw fish sold as white tuna at Skipjack’s in Foxborough was actually escolar, an oily, cheaper species banned in Japan because it can make people sick. The Alaskan butterfish at celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger in Wellesley was really sablefish, traditionally a staple at Jewish delicatessens, not upscale dining establishments.

At Chau Chow Seafood Restaurant in Dorchester, the $23 flounder fillet turned out to be a Vietnamese catfish known as swai - nutritionally inferior and often priced under $4 a pound.

The Globe collected fish from 134 restaurants, grocery stores, and seafood markets from Leominster to Provincetown, and hired a laboratory in Canada to conduct DNA testing on the samples. Analyses by the DNA lab and other scientists showed that 87 of 183 were sold with the wrong species name - 48 percent. ...

The Globe-sponsored DNA testing found 24 of the 26 red snapper samples were in fact other, less prized species, including fish collected at Minado restaurant in Natick, Teriyaki House in South Boston, and the now closed Big Papi’s Grille in Framingham, owned in part by Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

All 23 white tuna samples tested as some other type of fish, usually escolar, which is nicknamed the “ex-lax’’ fish by some in the industry because of the digestion problems it can cause. ...

Frozen fish at grocery stores was far less frequently misidentified, with some sellers - including Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and BJ’s Wholesale Club - passing muster in all instances. At restaurants, mahi mahi and swordfish were correctly labeled in all samples tested. ...

For example, nearly all of the sushi restaurants surveyed replaced wild-caught red snapper with tilapia, a farm-raised species usually from Asia that has a significantly higher concentration of the fatty acid Omega 6, which some research suggests increases the risk of heart disease.
--Jenn Abelson and Beth Daley, Boston Globe, on bait and switch