In past musings I’ve begun to have serious misgivings about our food: the supply chain, the producers, the sellers and the government regulators. The US food system is based on a foundation of trust that is crumbling faster than the delightful topping of my grandmother’s brown betty. Grocery stores decide for themselves whether to comply or not comply with recalls, The government has proven that it cannot even find contamination sources, much less control them, and marketers and producers continue to come up with novel ways to outright lie to us. It turns out that trying to eat in a more healthy manner is a route adorned with fraud. At least if you like fish.
In a tale of teenagers, sushi and science, Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss, who graduated this year from the Trinity School in Manhattan, took on a freelance science project in which they checked 60 samples of seafood using a simplified genetic fingerprinting technique to see whether the fish New Yorkers buy is what they think they are getting.
They found that one-fourth of the fish samples with identifiable DNA were mislabeled. A piece of sushi sold as the luxury treat white tuna turned out to be Mozambique tilapia, a much cheaper fish that is often raised by farming. Roe supposedly from flying fish was actually from smelt. Seven of nine samples that were called red snapper were mislabeled, and they turned out to be anything from Atlantic cod to Acadian redfish, an endangered species. Are food marketers crass enough to use the ol’ bait and switch? Apparently so.