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Is Your Fish a Fraud?

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What do Butterfish, White Tuna, Hawaiian Walu and Snake Mackerel have in common? They may all be nothing more than Escolar, a cheap and readily available fish. And here’s the bizarre part: There’s nothing fraudulent about markets, restaurants and sushi bars all using those names.

And to add insult to injury, Escolar often contains high levels of indigestible wax esters, similar to Olestra, the infamous fat substitute. This, in short, can cause anal leakage.

To make matters worse, the anal leakage from Escolar is a Orange colored oil that pools up in the rectum and causes frequent bowel movements.

Although Escolar isn’t toxic, it’s already banned in many countries including Japan for this very reason. However in the US Escolar is becoming trendy at high end restaurants and sushi bars. How can this be? With simple precautions it can be prepared and digested successfully. Keeping it refrigerated properly, eating it fresh, and serving it in small portions tends to reduce the risk to your pants. Its an oily fish that decomposes quickly, so know your restaurant and your sushi chef.

Also be aware that Escolar is sometimes fraudulently sold as Black Cod or Sea Bass, which is indeed illegal. This practice is not as uncommon as you might think, and Red Snapper is the worst offender. According to a recent study by the National Fisheries Institute, over 77% of Red Snapper is something else, mostly Tilapia. Often times the restaurants and markets aren’t aware of the fraud, the fish is often mislabeled at the distributer level. For Red Snapper, the easiest way to tell if its real is to look at the fish’s eye, It should be red.

So the next time you’re at the sushi bar and think “White Tuna sounds nice,” just remember to avoid the white pants and keep some handi-wipes nearby.


Photo Source: Jotis on flickr (cc). 

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