There’s something fishy happening in the world of seafood, and we’re not quite sure how to handle it. While health concerns with foods as seemingly simple as a can of tuna fish have been raised by some, others are doing their best to remedy this and bring purity back to the seafood industry. Whether it’s tuna fish, salmon, or tilapia, though, it’s important that the entire food industry takes a step back and reassess the way fish are raised, processed, and served.
The sushi industry, in particular, has had some mislabeling issues over the past few years. According to a study by Oceana, in 2012, roughly 58 percent of New York City sushi restaurants were selling fish that wasn’t labeled properly, with the worst culprits being rolls and platters advertising the inclusion of red snapper. There were up to 13 different types of fish labelled as red snapper that were, in fact, entirely different species. Additionally, about 94 percent of white tuna sold in the same year wasn’t white tuna at all. This “white tuna” was actually escolar, a type of snake mackerel with purgative effects.
There are efforts being made to fix this problem, though, and plans are being put in motion to install more classically trained sushi chefs in designated Japanese-grade sushi restaurants here in America and elsewhere around the world. The problems with sushi are but one issue affecting seafood consumption in this country. In addition to mislabeling, sketchy sourcing and the potential negative effects some fish can have on the body (no one wants to eat fish that has anything even close to purgative effects) all stand in stark opposition to the current American desires for transparent labeling, local sourcing, and food purity.
Dr. Michael S. Fenster, MD, FACC, FSCA&I, PEMBA, a faculty member at The University of Montana College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, has strong convictions when it comes to the consumption of seafood, sushi and otherwise. Specifically, he has a few fish bones to pick with one of the most widely available types of seafood in America today: tilapia.
“Health experts are continually berating us to eat more fish," says Dr. Fenster. "The health benefits observed in cultures in which fish and seafood play a prominent role are hard to deny. The fact that there is quite literally an ocean of tastes and textures to suit any palate would seem to render the logic of any argument, or any resistance, futile. But to simply bludgeon us over the head like a harp seal with the mandate to consume more fish without any regard to the type, character, and quality of our choosing is not only a dereliction of dietary duty, but downright dangerous. While I am an avid consumer of things marine, piscine, and occasionally culinarily obscene (some friends still gross out when I gobble down the whole plate of uni sashimi), I have limits and lines that shan’t be crossed. It is my red-algae line in the sand from where I throw that stuff back into the water.”
With that in mind, here are Dr. Fenster’s reasons for not eating tilapia, as well as some insight from two other doctors regarding fish in general and why they won’t eat it.