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Shark fin soup is well-established as one of the cruelest, most senseless dishes ever served. Sharks are grabbed from the water, their fins are cut off, and then they are tossed back in and left to die. There’s been an effort underway worldwide to eradicate the dish, which is incredibly expensive and traditionally served at Chinese weddings and banquets, but there are still plenty of people out there who eat the dish regularly, and in fact seek it out.
But the current state of shark fin soup is a lot more complicated than previously thought. A new report by the Chinese news station CCTV claims that up to 40 percent of all shark fins served in Chinese restaurants are in fact counterfeit.
A gelatinous combination of mung bean starch, gelatin, salt, and lots of chemicals has been found to stand in for the real thing, made incredibly cheaply as guests pay an arm and a leg for it. And what’s worse, many of those chemicals have been found to be poisonous, causing lung and liver damage.
And while more fake shark fins equal less of the real thing (and therefore fewer sharks being killed), the consequences sound horrific. Shark fins have been banned in the U.S., but are still completely legal, if slowly becoming discouraged, in China. Possibly now that diners know that they’re potentially putting themselves as well as the shark in danger they’ll stop eating the delicacy.