Return to

FDA and EPA update on seafood consumption

sushi maki FDA and EPA update on seafood consumptionSushi is a healthy food which offers great nutritional benefits. However, the FDA has in the past warned about consumption of large, predatory fish which have a higher level of mercury and other contaminants. In an update press release, the FDA has advised in a draft form that pregnant and breastfeeding women, those who are hoping to become pregnant, and young children may need to increase their increase their seafood intake, as long as the fish consumed are low in mercury and are properly cooked. The FDA and EPA have counselled in the past to avoid certain types of seafood and have even recommended limits to consumption, but this is the first time that they are recommending a minimum amount of seafood for new parents, expectant mothers, pregnant women, and small children. In part because of fears over health risks, these groups have had limited seafood consumption, below the levels advised by the FDA to the general public. While this is great news for seafood lovers, it must be advised that the FDA is still cautioning pregnant women and young children to avoid raw fish. This is because pregnant women and young children “often lack strong immune systems and are more at risk for foodborne illnesses.”

The draft, titled “Fish: what pregnant women and parents should know”, will, when finalized, replace the former advice, issued in 2004. The key message of the draft, which can be found at the FDA page is as follows, “Eat 8 to 12 ounces of a variety of fish each week from choices that are lower in mercury. The nutritional value of fish is important during growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants, and in childhood.”

Seafood is of great health benefit in that it can contribute to a full and balanced nutritional profile, which is exactly what mothers and their young children need. But that does not mean that all seafood is safe. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, along with persons who are at higher risk for contaminants such as those with a weakened immune system need to exercise caution in choosing the right fish. At this point, the FDA is still advising that certain types of fish be avoided: tilefish, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and white tuna, although tuna is acceptable in moderation. With the exception of tilefish, these are all large, predatory fish at the top of the food chains and who accumulate a much higher quantity of mercury than smaller species of seafood, such as salmon, shrimp, cod, and other popular choices. While other seafood will give nutritional and developmental benefits, caution must be exercised with freshwater fish, which even cooked can be problematic depending on fish advisories. Remember, due to the risk of parasites in freshwater fish, freshwater fish should never be used for sushi.

Keep in mind, at this point this information is all in draft form, and the FDA will be seeking public consultation before their final advice. As it stands, the current advice is that “women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume at least 8 and up to 12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week, from choices lower in methyl mercury.” For seafood lovers, that’s great news. For sushi lovers, the rule remains the same: if you are in an at risk group, avoid raw fish. If you would like more information on health risks of seafood, you can check out the draft updated advice at their webpage or, for more sushi related information, our guide to the potential health risks of sushi at our ‘Sushi and Health’ page.

 FDA and EPA update on seafood consumptionNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

1CMnJH7AaiiBe6Q86PfE6cZdm3HEaRuu1k

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

Unagi off the menu for environmentally conscious sushi lovers

uni Unagi off the menu for environmentally conscious sushi loversUnagi, or freshwater eel, is too delicious for its own good. Freshwater eel, which is traditionally known to bring strength and vitality to those who consume its meat, is in dire need of its own aphrodisiac properties as eel populations decline worldwide. In response to degrading stocks of eel, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has added Japanese Eel to its red list of endangered species, adding another voice against the unsustainable fishing and farming practices used in the production of eel. Freshwater eel is also on the avoid lists of Seafood Watch, Sea Choice, Ocean Wise, and the David Suzuki Foundation, marking the species unilaterally as an unsustainable choice. Freshwater eel has a life cycle which is affected by developments in both fresh and saltwater as adults spawn in salt water, with young eel travel thousands of miles to their freshwater habitats where they grow. This makes eel vulnerable to developments in the ocean, rivers, marshes and ponds.

It is the degradation of their freshwater habitats in particular which is causing the loss of population. As July 24th, the Ushinohi “eel day” approaches in Japan, the need for conservation and awareness is magnified. Freshwater eel is not just declining because of demand. Overfishing, loss of habitat and large scale, gradual shifts in ocean conditions are all contributing to the lowering population of freshwater eel. When a species of seafood becomes overfished, there is generally a push towards farming initiatives in order to produce a sustainable, cost-effective method of production. In the case of freshwater eel, farming is one of the leading causes of their decline. Farmed eel are taken from their habitats when young and brought to farms in order to grow. This has the effect of taking eel out of their natural breeding cycle, as the eel are not at the reproductive stage when taken from their habitats. Eel farming is done with open net pens, which has the added effect of allowing parasites, waste products and diseases to be introduced to the natural habitats.

Japanese eel populations have been decimated in the past half century due to factors ranging from unsustainable farming practices, climate change, and also barriers in waterways. As freshwater eel are born in the ocean, they must be able to travel back to their freshwater habitats in order to proceed in the five stages of their life. Dam construction has prevented upstream migration of eel, and agricultural, urban and industrial developments have all combined to put stress on the species.

Japan has reacted to the threats to their eel populations by placing a ban on the catch of juvenile eel. But IUU (illegal, unregulated and unreported) fishing is taking a toll on the population of this endangered species. The IUCN estimates that illegal fishing of eel could represent twice the amount of licensed eel fishing. Until world fisheries are able to cut down on illegal fishing, no conservation effort or management plan is going to be able to stop the decline in freshwater eel.

 Unagi off the menu for environmentally conscious sushi loversNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

1GynwMUDFky8BMT3mjKtRDtDob3mCLAEFP

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

Kaimin Katsugyo – Acupuncture Fish For Better Sushi

kaimin katsugyo Kaimin Katsugyo   Acupuncture Fish For Better SushiSushi chefs will go to any lengths in order to serve up the freshest, tastiest seafood they can. This is no small challenge for chefs far from the ocean, who are often frustrated by the rapid decline in the quality of fish as it is transported from the ocean to the table. In response, some sushi chefs have starting trying out unbelievably bizarre techniques, including my favorite, “acupuncture” for fish.

In some Japanese restaurants, fish is served up live and gasping, prepared right in front of guests as proof of their freshness. In countries where serving live fish is a little too risque for local palates, sushi chefs have had to become creative in finding ways to ensure their sushi is the freshest. “Kaimin katsugyo” is one such practice. Kaimin katsugyo, which translates to “Live Fish, Sleeping Soundly,” shares many similarities to acupuncture. Fish are pierced by needles with precision in spots which are a closely guarded trade secret of the company which pioneered the process, Osakano Kikaku, in Japan. Essentially, fish are brought into a coma-like sleep, unable to do anything but breath weakly, allowing for the fish to be bled out without stress and preventing early decomposition while in transit. While the fish do in fact die eventually in the 12 hour flight from Japan to North America, they keep the most basic of bodily functions, allowing them to breathe weakly instead of dying immediately from stress. For sushi chefs who are used to airlifted fish being of lower quality due to the strain the flight, kaimin katsugyo is a blessing – for a price. While the technique is claimed to allow for a fresher, more delicious fish, it also causes the fish to be roughly double the standard market value. Regardless of the price, fish treated by the kaimin katsugyo are in high demand, with the company selling out constantly with every shipment.

Leftover blood in a fish can cause rapid decay of tissue, which is why other methods focus on removing blood from the fish in order to keep it fresh. Chi-nuki, or strategic bloodletting, is a practice of surgical incisions in the fish to allow the still beating heart of the fish to pump blood out of the body. This practice can be used in conjunction with kaimin katsugyo, as the paralyzed fish is ostensibly unable to feel pain in what proponents of the practice believe is a more ethical way to enjoy sushi.

For those who are already skeptical of the benefits of acupuncture for humans, it might seem a little incredible that fish can have a zombie-like state induced by the needle punctures. But when you have a technique that has celebrities such as Katie Perry tweeting that they the “fish had previously had acupuncture” when dining at high end restaurants such as Montreal’s Antonio Park restaurant, the real benefits of the practice hardly matter. High end restaurants thrive off of being exclusive and the place to be, and serving up dishes off acupunctured sushi and hand massaged beef is exactly how to do it.

 Kaimin Katsugyo   Acupuncture Fish For Better SushiNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

1FRJianV1jatwfQoF28Ud8mSDTs3VHsVfR

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

Spam Sushi? Yes, an upscale NY sushi restaurant is using spam in their sushi menu

spam musubi 300x226 Spam Sushi? Yes, an upscale NY sushi restaurant is using spam in their sushi menuI’m from the west coast of Canada in an area where hipsters abound, and the idea of an upscale sushi restaurant in New York called Sushi Ko serving up SPAM got my hipster sense tingling. Surely, an upscale trendy restaurant is using SPAM ironically? Perhaps my location has made me suspicious of hipsters trying hard to be counter-culture, but Sushi Ko’s head chef seems to genuinely love SPAM and working it into his cooking in an authentic and delicious way. The idea of Sushi Ko is Omakase style dining, meaning that the chef chooses the dishes of the day. And while I might be a little weirded out by spam sushi, it’s apparently not such a rare treat. To me, it seems incredibly bizarre, but after doing a little more research into SPAM sushi around the world I realized it’s not such a novel idea.

Spam is incredibly popular in Hawaii. So popular, in fact, that the official SPAM website has a section in their faq dedicated to answering why, exactly this is. The section reaches back into history, going back to World War II when the luncheon meat was served to GIs and was quickly and voraciously adopted into local culture. One take on the dish is SPAM Musubi. Spam is grilled, molded, and served nigiri style on rice and wrapped in nori. While you might gets some shocked looks in any other part of the world, Spam sushi wouldn’t turn a head in Hawaii.

And Spam sushi isn’t just limited to nigiri. You can find maki roll recipes on the net, where SPAM is paired with a limitless number of other ingredients, wrapped up in rice and nori and served up “fresh.” I tend to prefer more traditional sushi dishes, but I have to say if I was offered Spam sushi, I would find it tough to resist out of sheer curiosity. Who knows, maybe the saltiness of Spam combined with the sushi rice and nori could work? When I read about Sushi Ko’s tasting menu featuring that ubiquitous dish from a can, it seemed certain that Spam Sushi was a way for yuppies to go out to an upscale dinner and use Spam sushi as a talking point for one-upping their friends. After a little research, I’m not so sure!

 Spam Sushi? Yes, an upscale NY sushi restaurant is using spam in their sushi menuNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

195DKpf9dEwakps95LovZjVQxX79WhLR7k

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

Sushi Mislabeling – A new bill proposes criminal sanctions

sushi mislabeling 300x167 Sushi Mislabeling   A new bill proposes criminal sanctionsIf you saw our previous article on sushi restaurants, grocery stores and venues mislabeling their seafood, you know that it is a rampant problem in the sushi industry. How bad is it? In restaurants tested, almost three quarters were selling mislabeled fish. If you are paying for premium quality fish, you need to know you are getting what you ask for. And it isn’t just about the money. Mislabeling poses even greater risks for pregnant women looking to avoid mercury. Cheaper fish such as Tilefish, often misleadingly labelled as Grouper and Halibut, has a mercury content high enough that the FDA warns small children, nursing mothers and pregnant women to stay away from it. Sushi is safe when you know exactly what you are getting and how it is prepared, but when high percentages of restaurants, stores and markets are selling mislabeled fish, it is difficult for consumers to trust retailers. How can you be certain your sushi has been prepared safely if you can’t even be certain it’s the right fish?

Finally, a lawmaker is paying attention to this. On Monday, April 7, California Senator Alex Padilla held a press conference in Sacramento on his new bill which will impose criminal penalties on those found guilty of mislabeling seafood. The bill, Bill SB 1138 is set for a hearing on April 9th by the Senate Health Committee and would “require any label of fresh, frozen, or processed fish or shellfish, wild or farm raised, offered for sale at wholesale or retail to clearly identify the species of fish or shellfish by its common name, as specified.”

What exactly is a common name? Common names vary from region to region. They are the names of fish which are regionally used to designate species, which means that while common names are sometimes inappropriate for interstate commerce, they are the best way for local consumers to know they are getting what they paid for. That is why SB 1138 will create and impose a state-mandated local program to enforce existing law, which is clarified in the text of the new bill.

Currently, while it is a crime to mislabel food, laws are ambiguous or murky in the area of seafood, allowing retailers to mislabel food with seeming impunity considering the rampant levels of mislabeling. The FDA attempts to regulate the seafood industry, but the task seems to be of a magnitude too great for them to stop the current surge of mislabeling, which is why state-mandated local programs could be the answer, backed by the authority to levy criminal penalties and fines. Before this bill, guidelines for labeling fish were generally under the FDA “fish list“, which supports the labeling of seafood by the common name but did not mandate it, saying only that “FDA generally regards common names as appropriate market names, provided they are not misleading or confusing”. It’s obvious by the current rate of mislabeling that it isn’t enough, and that the enforcement right now just isn’t there.

A bill like this does so much more than protect consumers wallets. This bill could protect new mothers, pregnant women and small children from the dangers of mercury poisoning. It could protect those with allergies from serious reactions. And on the conservation front, this bill is one step forward for ecological sustainability efforts which are impeded by mislabeling of seafood. Consumers who are trying their best to eat only sustainable seafood may find themselves, through no fault of their own, eating at-risk species mislabeled as sustainably best choices. We will be following the course of this bill closely, and sushi lovers and consumer rights advocates should too. Consumers have the right to know exactly what they are putting in their bodies, especially when you are talking about raw fish.

 Sushi Mislabeling   A new bill proposes criminal sanctionsNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

1KjzTFYJk7NvJvapVbp7CotbLpFYFvy23F

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

Seaweed Salad – My Favorite Quick Lunch

seaweed salad1 Seaweed Salad   My Favorite Quick LunchFor a quick snack, nothing beats a quick and easy meal of seaweed salad, AKA “chukka sarada” (right now from Beyond Sushi, off Union Square Park). Filling, healthful, and it offers ample opportunity to bone up on my flossing skills! Sweet, savory, and a touch of sesame make eating this a game of taste-bud boxing with the myriad flavors. Enough is never enough.

 

 Seaweed Salad   My Favorite Quick LunchNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

17nA2fesPDidh9wuDA4vjwY2hE9hU5ZGaK

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

Sushi on a single grain of rice

single grain of ruice sushi 300x246 Sushi on a single grain of rice
How many pieces of sushi can you eat? 10? 20? 100? If you find yourself struggling to get into the triple digits when you go to an all you can eat sushi special, read on. Hironori Ikeno, a sushi chef in Tokyo has a unique take on sushi, using only a single grain of rice for each piece. He skillfully balances tiny pieces of fish in place on their tiny bed of rice, wrapping them in place with a miniature strand of nori (seaweed). This sushi promises the ultimate test of chopstick skills as you carefully, carefully attempt to pick up the single piece and bring it to your mouth intact as the chef watches intently, judging your every move as you bring the delicate creation closer and closer to your mouth. Your hands wobble and shake with nervous stress, beads of cold sweat sliding down your face from your forehead in intense concentration until you are finally rewarded with a burst of flavor and a look of stern approval from the sushi chef. Don’t worry – if you aren’t an expert at chopsticks, I’m sure he will let you use your hands!

Check out the short video below for more!

 Sushi on a single grain of riceNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

1AxAKiiQEqeLswVie6tVLU6czfxH3dMhyJ

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

The global seafood trade is at a record breaking high


The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization Sub-Committee on Fish Trade will be meeting in Norway next week, and preliminary data released shows that exports are at an all time high. 2013 is set to make a new record in fish trade at 160 million tonnes, up 3 million from the previous year. That is a $136 billion industry in exports alone. While this is welcome news for the global economy, it raises worries for those concerned with overfishing and the sustainability of the industry on the whole.

Seafood is booming. High prices in species such as salmon and shrimp have maintained even with growth in aquaculture output, and the demand for fresh seafood keeps increasing. But not everyone is benefiting equally from the enormous profits of the global fishing industry. While developing countries are supplying 61 percent of fish by volume, they are only receiving 54 percent by value. This seems fairly neutral at first, with developing countries holding their own in global fish trade against the economic behemoths of the Western world, but the FAO warns that the benefits are not being seen by the small-scale fishing communities and farmers who represent 90 percent of the global seafood workforce. While neoliberal readers may be surprised to hear that trickledown economics seem to be failing for developing countries, it is a real issue when the bulk of the workforce is being left out of the economic development. Feminist scholars and activists will be interested in knowing that half of these seafood workers are female, and that helping small scale producers should be able to help women in developing countries.

It is the same story. Small scale workers simply do not have the capital and bargaining power to compete at the same level as the big players on a global scale. When you add in restrictions and catch certification that first world markets are moving towards in order to ensure an environmentally sustainable fishing industry, you have further problems for small-scale fishers who live in countries that simply do not have the infrastructure to meet the requirements for the most profitable markets. The FAO recommends to countries that they tailor national policies to not overlook small-scale sectors; however at this time they do not seem to be providing solutions for developing countries that have a more difficult time meeting market access regulations other than a plea to the countries to get with the times and provide programs to ensure compliance.

Developing countries need more focus. While it is not a happy truth, the fewer the regulations in place, the more opportunities for illegal and unregulated fishing there are. We will see if the FAO is able to offer concrete, valuable solutions for developing countries to meet growing restrictions to markets and to provide for their small scale workers and sectors in the future. Readers looking for more information can refer to the FAO website for further information.

 The global seafood trade is at a record breaking highNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

1B2Z2sxSuJnivxBdzfRDW7jrrdQ3LfE4oE

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

Finfish study warns of decreasing seafood supply


Your sushi is still in danger. A Finfish study, published by the EU Fish Processors and Traders Association in December of 2013 has the goal of providing the information needed to allow for a sustainable and consistent fishing industry for EU member states. It is a study published annually for over 20 years, and is a tool for creating legislation and regulations in the EU fishing industry. The study is a whopping 71 pages, chock full of scientific language which makes it lengthy to read through – so we’ve done the work for you, and here are the key points and conclusions of the study that may affect your sushi enjoyment.

The key findings of 2013 are generally negative. The total market supply has dropped by 13.7 million tons, quota utilization has deteriorated, and the EU is facing increased international competition which makes environmental regulations increasingly unpopular. This is the first time since the EU27 (which saw the addition of Bulgaria and Romania and spanned 2007-2013) that the available supply of fish has declined. However, the study is not overtly negative, and remains confident that the EU fish and seafood market can continue to support itself without recession.

The EU has found out just how complex the fishing industry is. This study follows a trend in having trouble with the sheer scope and complexity of the industry, with large variations in prices both international and nationally as well as the convoluted path that seafood takes from the sea to your dinner plate. Gone are the days, unless you are lucky enough to live in a fishing community, of fresh fish being brought in for dinner. Nowadays, fish passes through a complex web of suppliers, pounds (especially for shellfish) and international distributors before it reaches the consumer. This makes it difficult to regulate and trace whether or not seafood is sourced sustainably. One of the positives that this study sees is the effectiveness of EU-IUU regulations which were made to deal with this very problem.

EU-IUU regulations were created to ensure that fish being imported into the EU (and caught by EU member states) are sourced in a way that is environmentally sustainable as well as legal. IUU fishing, or illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, is the biggest threat to fish stocks globally. Started in 2008, this regulation has now become “a firmly established feature of the international trading environment,” and has served to label countries not willing to cooperate as “non-cooperating third world countries in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”. The EU, a multinational body which serves the interests of all member states does not suffer from the same limitations of a one-state approach to regulations. When you are talking about a global commodity which requires everyone in the world to fish sustainably, the EU is a key part of the sustainability effort, and its decisions will have a direct effect on the availability of particular fish that is commonly eaten as sushi.

If you would like to read more about the study, you can see it straight from the source. The study findings are published for free at The European Fish Processors Association.

 Finfish study warns of decreasing seafood supplyNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

14qdGZ5MSqxz2Mvq8YiPp2DetGAbXP39bu

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.

Changes in California Retail Food Code impact sushi chefs

salmon Changes in California Retail Food Code impact sushi chefsIn order to provide a more sanitary environment, California has passed new legislation to require that all culinary workers wear gloves while handling food. Among the most vocal critics of the law are bartenders, who find gloves to be inconveniencing especially during peak hours, and sushi chefs who find that the quality of their sushi declines with the barrier between their hands and the ingredients.

Sushi is unlike other foods in the way that making expert level sushi is an extremely and directly tactile process. Expert sushi chefs need to have direct contact with the sushi, feeling with their hands the exact properties of rice, nori (seaweed) and seafood. While to the vast majority of sushi consumers there will be no noticeable difference between sushi made by bare hands and those by chefs with gloves, the sushi chefs themselves and true lovers of sushi can tell that they are not quite reaching the perfection that they need to take sushi from food to art form. If you know any serious sushi chefs, you know that they seek to perfect their craft, and gloves are one more obstacle preventing them from creating the dishes they envision.

The mentality of a sushi chef is one of exacting standards, and loose fitting gloves impede them from reaching their potential. Some sushi chefs have over 30 years perfecting their art, and their hands have decades of experience knowing the perfect, exact movements to turn sushi into art. While it might not seem like a big deal to the average person, the pursuit of perfection inherent to any serious sushi chef brings understandable criticism of the law.

For the first six months of the new law, offenders will only be given a verbal warning. But after that, they could be found in violation of health code laws, which has huge ramifications for restaurant owners. There is a possibility for exemption to the laws, which restaurants can apply for. For fine dining restaurants, it would be more feasible to be granted an exception, and California sushi lovers can only hope that their favorite restaurant is able to be exempt from the laws.

 Changes in California Retail Food Code impact sushi chefsNo tips yet.
Be the first to tip!

Like this post? Tip me with bitcoin!

19xLZyXsjRUBpGgQpoo9cozZyLBYaHoqYV

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider tipping me using Bitcoin. Each post gets its own unique Bitcoin address so by tipping you're not only making my continued efforts possible but telling me what you liked.