Thursday, February 21, 2013


Who has not heard of the recent adulteration episode in Europe where horse meat was used to extend the beef content in hundreds of products labeled as beef? Though the ramification of such wide spread food fraud is limited to economic cheating, it does not make such products dangerous or unhealthy to the consumers. Paradoxically horse meat is no way inferior to beef though many sources do contain residues of some performance enhancing drugs which may pose some hazard. Close on the heels of this episode comes the news that American consumers are facing a similar situation vis-a-vis fish products. It was shocking that almost one third of market samples of fish products claimed to be based on Red Snapper, a much valued fish species, were made with other varieties with little or no resemblance to the former! Here is a take on this mislabeling practices widely prevalent in United State of America.    

"That tempting seafood delight glistening on the ice at the market, or sizzling at the restaurant table in its aromatic jacket of garlic and ginger? It may not be at all what you think, or indeed even close, according to a big new study of fish bought and genetically tested in 12 parts of the country — in restaurants, markets and sushi bars — by a nonprofit ocean protection group, Oceana. In the 120 samples labeled red snapper and bought for testing nationwide, for example, 28 different species of fish were found, including 17 that were not even in the snapper family, according to the study, which was released Thursday. The study also contained surprises about where consumers were most likely to be misled — sushi bars topped the list in every city studied — while grocery stores were most likely to be selling fish honestly. Restaurants ranked in the middle. Part of the problem, said the study's chief author, Kimberly Warner, is that there are quite simply a lot of fish in the sea, and many of them look alike. Over all, the study found that about one-third of the 1,215 fish samples bought, from 2010 to 2012, were mislabeled."Even a relatively educated consumer couldn't look at a whole fish and say, 'I'm sure that's a red snapper and not lane snapper,' " she said.

Here again nutritionally it could make very little difference whether the product is based on Red Snapper or any other fish as long they are edible. But such practices are considered unethical and amounts to cheating those who ardently love Red Snapper as a fish of their preference. While during olden days there was hardly any tool available to detect such adulteration, advent of gene testing readily offers a convenient route to differentiate between various living species. Adulteration is one of the oldest professions and no matter how diligent the consumer is, it will continue as long as there is attractive "bonus" for the fraudsters. No wonder costly products like Olive oil, Caviar, Honey, Saffron, Coffee, Tea etc attract adulterators like flies to a piece of jaggery, the basis being higher the cost more will be the profit!


No comments: