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The Guardian’s Sept 15, 2016 panel on slavery in the seafood industry will answer tough questions that sushi lovers need to know about

Sushi and Slavery

In the last year, The Guardian shocked the world of seafood by releasing their investigative journalism regarding slavery in the seafood industry. Migrants had been trafficked and sold as slaves in the cut throat race towards cheap seafood for international consumption. We look forward to hearing the panel in September which will go into further detail into slavery and seafood. Sushi lovers already worry about the sustainability of their seafood. Over the past year, sushi lovers have had to worry that the sushi they are eating was fished using slave labor.

The panel will discuss what has been done in light of these shocking discoveries, covering the scope of forced labor in the seafood supply chain, the impact of monitoring and policing, and the way that restaurants, merchants, and large markets are responding to the information that they may be involuntarily complicit to slavery and poor working conditions.

Consumers want to buy ethically, but there is also a pressing demand for cheap seafood that has caused a race to the bottom in terms of prices – and what unscrupulous people are willing to do to maximize their profits. The panel will also cover whether traceability schemes can be trusted to actually ensure ethical treatment of the people involved in the seafood industry from the moment it is caught to the moment the food is served on your plate. Consumers want to buy ethical seafood. They need to be able to trust the bodies certifying their food.

The reality of the seafood industry is that it is inescapably international. Unless you want to purchase only local seafood, it is very likely that you are buying food from across the world. This includes Thailand, where The Guardian uncovered the instances of slavery last year. Can consumers trust the governments of all of the nations involved to be robust enough to be able to guarantee the traceability of their seafood? These questions will be discussed at the conference in detail in the panel, comprised of Annie Kelly, Guardian Journalist, Steve Trent, founder of the Environmental Justice Foundation, Libby Woodhatch, head advocacy of Seafish, and more experts in the field to be announced shortly. Accountability is key, and international certification agreements are only as strong as their weakest party.

The situation is a complex one. The UK government considers large companies to be required to ensure they are purchasing their seafood “slavery free”, and to annually discloses measures they have taken to confirm this. At the same time, companies are demanding that there be certification standard that proves that vessels are not engaging in practices of slavery, among other human rights violations. It feels as if each party involved is leaning on another to fix the issue. The panel will show what each party has concretely achieved to address the problem.

To further complicate the situation, it is possible that even a concentrated effort to trace seafood from the source to the plate to assure there is no slavery could only scratch the surface of the problem. For example, let us look at Thailand, where The Guardian uncovered instances of slavery. Seafish, one of the organizations presenting in the panel, stated in their blog on October 17, 2014 that “the nature of the problem in Thailand relates chiefly to the vessels catching the small fish used for fishmeal production (used as feed for warm water prawns), rather than the vessels landing seafood for direct human consumption”. Can consumers be certain that even if their seafood is certified, that the companies will not be using or complicit in inhumane methods in other parts of the supply chain?

The problem is convoluted and murky, and we hope that the panel will shed some light on the nuances of the international seafood supply chain. In the meantime, I’m more inclined to buy local – but I, unlike others, am lucky enough to be living right next to the Pacific Ocean. Seafood is healthy and nutritious, and health conscious consumers will purchase it over red meat and other products, as long as the price is right. Will we be able to buy seafood ethically and at an affordable price? Let’s hope the panel pulls no punches. As consumers, we have a right to make informed choices.

The “Chipotle of Sushi”: A new chain in land-locked Ohio is changing the way we look at sushi

Fusian fast food style sushi

The concept is so simple it should have been obvious, but Fusion, a new sushi chain in one of the states you would least expect to see it happen is changing the way people look at sushi. The way it works is just like Chipotle. You choose between seaweed, white rice or brown sushi rice and add a protein, which can be traditional sushi ingredients such as tuna or salmon, or more regionalized choices like steak or chicken. Then you add in some veggies, and top it off with a sauce of your own choice. You can get it customized how you like it and they make it right before your eyes.

This is not sushi as an art form, and it is a very different experience to sitting in front of a sushi chef who has trained his or her entire life. This is a modern approach to sushi, complete with online ordering and a complete description of exactly how many calories, fat, sodium, carbs, fiber and protein you are getting in your roll. This allows health conscious consumers to choose low calorie sushi options. It is efficient, quick, and ideal for people on the go. Fusian is what happens when social media, time crunched millennials and a nation wide craze for sushi combine together to create something delicious and novel. The ingredients are made to fit local tastes, which explains the availability of sauces like sweet chili and sriracha and the fact that you can get cream cheese in your roll (which is ironically labelled as a vegetable on their website!).

Here is a screenshot of their menu (notice the last item on the vegetable list!). I had to get a picture before they changed it. Reminds me of when senators were trying to call pizza a vegetable.

sushi fusian cream cheese

Maybe you are skeptical. How can sushi be any good when you’re in Ohio? Won’t the fish be less fresh, and the ingredients of poor quality, especially when it’s served at fast food prices?

Fusian’s popularity would answer that question. With nine stores in Ohio, the build your own sushi chain is thriving. Half of the battle for Fusian is education people and getting them to try new things, and the founder has made it his mission to explain the way that restaurants purchase seafood. The secret is in the way that the entire sushi distribution chain works. Massive seafood suppliers dominate the market so unilaterally that Fusian in Ohio is buying their ingredients from the exact same distributors as restaurants in New York, and almost all of the restaurants in the United States for that matter, explains founder Zach Weprin. He claims that because his chain saves cost on staff and training compared to traditional sushi restaurants, he is able to provide top tier ingredients at more economical prices.

One small niggling detail that does not quite seem to hold up in the comparison between a New York sushi restaurant and Fusian is that sushi is incredibly popular in New York compared to Ohio. This means that large quantities of seafood are imported daily, leading to a very efficient infrastructure, and consumers are eating it up at a staggering rate. How is it possible that a restaurant in Ohio can have the same freshness as a top tier sushi restaurant in New York? This worry is countered by the strict laws and standards that are required for serving raw fish (and ingredients such as steak and chicken). There are stringent requirements which Fusian had to meet before being allowed to operate. The fact that there are already nine Fusian restaurants speaks to the chain’s ability to grow and negotiate with suppliers and distributors from a place of strength, and should set minds at ease that the seafood is not fresh.

How does Fusion do on sustainability?

Fusian uses plant-based food packaging, drinkware, and flatware. They have recycling stations in store and are committed to sourcing from responsible and credible suppliers. The last part is a little unclear. Fusian does not say how their suppliers are considered responsible, for example if they have achieved sustainability certification such as MSC. We wish Fusian would be a little more in depth on their website in regards to sustainability. It’s so important for consumers to be able to make educated choices.

A photo posted by FUSIAN (@eatfusian) on

Fusian looks like the perfect lunch to get in the middle of a busy workday. Simple, customized, and quick, with fresh ingredients and a modern look. I wish it would spread to where I live!

Sushi Donuts! The next crazy sushi trend to break the internet.

We’ve just shown you guys rainbow sushi, sushi burgers, and even spam sushi. What’s next on the menu? Sushi donuts! And no, we don’t mean donuts that look like sushi (although those are cool too)

Photo Credit: www.instagram.com/miyumya/

Photo Credit: @miyumya/

We mean sushi, made to look like donuts. From simple rings of rice with a few toppings to more elaborate creations that seem like the creators tried to fit as many different colours, flavours and textures as they could into a single dish, sushi donuts are a creative new addition way to sushi.

Now this one’s colourful.

These sushi donuts are a little more traditional: each “donut” breaks into standard sushi rolls like you would expect to eat at a restaurant.

A photo posted by @happeabites on

I wanted to end off with this creative interpretation of the trend!

A photo posted by @petitmiam on

Is there anything more ridiculous than SPAM sushi?

spam sushi

Recently we’ve posted a couple articles about some crazy trends in the sushi world, including rainbow sushi and sushi burgers. After hearing some of the reactions to these bizarre creations we couldn’t resist bringing you the scoop on the newest aberration to enter the sushi world, brought to you by the United States of America. The Minnesota state fair is taking it one step further towards the westernization of sushi with a dish sure to make sushi purists feel sick to their stomach’s – spam sushi.

From the official website (Check it out to see some of the really delicious options they have), the description could not be more appealing: Grilled SPAM®, sushi rice, fried egg and wasabi rolled in nori (dried seaweed).”

Now I’m pretty open to trying new things in the sushi world, but I draw the line somewhere WAY before wrapping up a piece of grilled spam and fried eggs in nori. To anyone brave enough to try this creation, we salute you!

Voluntary agreement by major companies will protect Arctic Waters

Corporate Responsiblity Arctic Fishing

McDonald’s, Tesco, Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer, Asda, Morrisons, Youns Seafood, Birds Eye, Espersen, Karat, and Fiskebat are major players in the cod industry. They are responsible for supplying and purchasing huge volumes of the species, and their business practices have an enormous effect on whether or not the species and its habitats will be protected or over-exploited. Fishing fleets are expanding territories to obtain the most economical catch as possible, putting new areas at risk.

A key area of Arctic waters between Greenland, Russia and Norway is the great benefactor of the agreement which will prevent expansion into the area. These waters have not yet undergone significant fishing and are currently undergoing a research effort to learn how to properly exploit the resources of the waters without causing undue harm to the environment and the cod within its boundaries. It isn’t just cod that is going to benefit from the agreement. Bottom trawlers, used to fish cod, can cause damage to other species, and with the lack of research into the area the true cost of these fishing methods is not fully understood in the region.

While you may not be familiar with all of the signatories, this is good progress for protecting cod populations. Fiskebat, for instance, represents all registered fishing vessels in Norway. Corporate responsibility paired with informed consumption is a powerful force towards exploiting the bounties of the sea responsibly.

How can you do your part? Continue making informed choices. The more that consumers show their preference for certified seafood, the more the market will respond.

Sushiburger – the newest sushi craze to hit the internet!

Sushi burger

Want a burger without breaking the diet? Sushi burger has your back! Everyone knows sushi is a low calorie option compared to fast food, and sushi burgers are the latest trend to blow up insta and fb, with restaurants competing to make the best sushi burger around. While sushi burgers are just now seeing massive popularity thanks to the internet, some commentators say they have been around for years.

A photo posted by Thrillist (@thrillist) on

I’ve never seen them before. Have any of our readers tried a sushi burger? Would love to hear what you think of them. Check out how it’s made in the video below.

All I know is I want to try it! If anywhere near me offered a sushi burger, I know it would be it’s most popular dish – at least until the internet craze dies down. This is one of the most fun sushi ideas we’ve seen! Of course, purists are going to turn their nose at the sushi burger, but if you don’t mind something silly and fun it could be quite delicious. Sometimes I want a burger but don’t want to feel the self-loathing and uncomfortable fullness after I polish off a massive meal…

A photo posted by Mezcla (@mezcla_bari) on

If I am craving sushi, I think I’ll go for something a little more traditional. But if I wanted to try something new, hell yeah I’d chow down on a sushiburger. If you liked looking at sushi burgers, you’re going to love checking out Rainbow Sushi!

Rainbow sushi is dazzling the internet

rainbow sushiYou may have ordered a rainbow roll before at a restaurant. The newest trend in sushi, however, is not rolls with a selection of seafood to give the roll an appealing colour, but something altogether different – the use of natural ingredients to bring colour to the rice itself! While the taste shouldn’t be much different (we hope) than regular sushi, you have to admit that the new trend is aesthetically beautiful.

Sushi is as much art as it is food, and seeing new ways of presenting my favourite dishes are always fun, even if in this case it’s a little wild!

A photo posted by Kelly Lamug (@kellylamug) on

Some crafty creators of rainbow sushi have ditched food colouring altogether to create all-natural hues. A popular way to make a brilliant yellow, for example, is the use of tumeric. Tumeric is part of the ginger family, and we all know that sushi is often served with ginger slices. I’m not so certain how adding it to the rolls itself would affect the taste! I think I’d prefer my ginger on the side…

A photo posted by @earthfawn on

Rainbow sushi might be nice to look at, but if you ask me, I’ll stick to plain rice. Maybe I’m just not adventurous enough! Would you be willing to try rainbow sushi?

Sustainability in the Supplement industry – Norwegian San Omega achieves FoS Certification

San Omega receives

It’s easy to tell where your seafood comes from. If you buy it fresh, you can ask your fishmonger or read the packaging. If you buy it preserved, the label will tell you where it was caught.

Fish oil supplements are a little bit trickier. When you buy fish oil in liquid or capsule form, you might scratch your head at the label. Even if you go to the manufacturers websites, it can be difficult to know where the seafood is sourced and how it was caught. I slogged my way though multiple different omega 3 fish oil websites only to find rather vague information on where exactly the fish oil came from. The supplement industry has always been a bit like the “wild west” in the fitness industry, and that same attitude seems to prevalent among fish oil vendors as well. So how can you make ethical choices when it comes to your omega 3 supplements? One way you can ensure you are buying sustainable products is to purchase from companies who have attained certification.

Friend of the Sea (FoS) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to conserving marine habitats and to educating consumers towards ethical seafood choices. Recently, San Omega, a Norwegian oil company which uses wild caught sardines, mackerels, and anchovies has recently achieved FoS status for their line of fish oils. This means that their fisheries are strictly managed to sustainability criteria, source only from stocks which have not been over exploited, and are limited in the fishing methods that they use. Currently, San Omega sourcing is both certified under FoS and IFFO (The Marine Ingredients Organization).

At Sushifaq, we want to say bravo to San Omega for showing how supplement companies can source ingredients in an ethical, sustainable way. It is so critical to the conservation of ocean life for consumers to be able to make informed, ethical choices, and proper certification in the supplement and omega three oil business is essential to that process.

Is sushi perfect for a first date?

Sushi - The Perfect First dateWe’ve always known sushi is the perfect first date, and now it’s scientifically proven. Every year, Match.com releases its Singles in America study, the most comprehensive national study of American singles that exists. The data is put together by biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, the premier anthropologist on love and dating. The study found that taking your date out for sushi didn’t just help make for a great first date, it also improved the chance of a second date by 170%!

What makes sushi such a perfect first date? Here’s our take on why sushi is scientifically the best choice.

A first date is all about getting to know someone, and sushi is perfect for it. It’s fun, light, and easy to share. Going out for sushi is the polar opposite of a stuffy French restaurant. Instead of ending the meal feeling full and lethargic, you feel energetic and vibrant from a healthy meal. You can practice using chopsticks, laugh when a roll doesn’t quite make it to your mouth, and enjoy a varied meal with plenty of choices. It’s also possible that barbecue eel was ordered – which is known in Japan for its aphrodisiac qualities!

Sushi is a little different than safer, more boring alternatives. The study found that 75% of respondents preferred simple American food for a first date. That might be one of the keys to understanding why sushi improved the odds of a second date by 170% – you either love sushi, or the idea of eating raw fish creeps you out. It’s likely that when discussing options for a date, sushi is either a solid yes or an avoid at all costs meal. I’ve never met a single person (pun intended) that just “sort of liked” sushi. If you’re a sushi lover, It’s common sense that going on a date for something you love is going to leave a good taste in your mouth!

So, what’s the take-away? If you want to lock down that second date, make sure sushi is on the menu.

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Is there carbon monoxide in your sushi? US retailers continue to use a shocking practice banned internationally

Tuna carbon monoxideI recently read an article in the news which said that sushi grade tuna might be being treated with carbon monoxide in order to give it a bright, fresh red color. I instantly did a quick search online, and the first information on the US government Center for Disease Control and Prevention said this: “Carbon Monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you”.

Is it possible that sushi vendors are using a deadly substance in order to appeal to the eyes of consumers? I could not believe it, so I researched it further.

Apparently, carbon monoxide prevents oxidation in tuna. That means that instead of going brown, fish stays bright red and fresh looking. While carbon monoxide poisoning in large amounts can and does kill hundreds every year, the FDA has ruled that treating fish and meat with the preservative is “GRAS”, or “Generally Recognized as Safe”.

Why are seafood vendors using carbon monoxide? When tuna is flash frozen, not all of the microbes are killed. The process is simply not cold enough. Because of this, tuna will go brown quite quickly. Seafood dealers found that they could preserve the cherry red coloring of the fish, making it more appealing to consumers. When your competitors are able to offer older tuna which looks as if it was just hauled out of the ocean, it becomes difficult to compete unless you join standard industry practices of hiding signs of decay with preservatives.

Even though it has been considered safe by the FDA, there are restrictions. Tuna that has been treated with the chemical additive of carbon monoxide must have the information clearly stated on its label. It cannot be marketed or branded as fresh frozen, because carbon monoxide is a preservative.

But can you trust the labels? While the FDA has required tuna vendors to clearly indicate the existence of carbon monoxide as a preservative, they have allowed at least two different meat vendors to use the exact same process – without labeling their product in any way. If the meat industry can get away with selling carbon monoxide treated products, I would not be surprised if things could change for seafood.

While carbon monoxide as a preservative is sanctioned by the US government, international response is different. In 2003 the European Union unilaterally banned the use of carbon monoxide in both meat and seafood. Their reasoning? The bright red, fresh looking coloring that carbon monoxide gives can hide harmful growth of bacteria. China, which is not known for consumer protections has also banned the use of carbon monoxide in food products. It should also come as no surprise that Japan, the sushi capital of the world, does not allow the practice.

When you see a beautiful, bright red packaged tuna, check the ingredients. If tuna has partially decomposed, adding tasteless carbon monoxide smoke can hide the fact that the fish is no longer fresh. If you are lucky, it will only be the taste that is ruined. Sushi, in its essence, depends on simplicity. If the main ingredient that the sushi roll revolves around looks beautiful but tastes fishy, the experience suffers.

Personally, I am going to be reading labels carefully. When I eat sushi, I want to feel healthy and revitalized. Carbon monoxide is just not an ingredient I am comfortable putting in my body, even if the FDA rules it as “generally considered safe”.

When you eat sushi, you are taking a slight risk. The simple fact that you are eating raw food carries with it a higher risk because there is no cooking process to kill harmful bacteria. It is incredibly important that you use good quality, fresh ingredients. My advice? When it comes to sushi, skip the monoxide. Consumers should be allowed to pick their food using their eyes without having to worry that signs of old, decaying fish have been hiding with chemical preservatives.

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