The Imitation Calamari Controversy: Real or Hoax?

'This American Life' segment sparks debate over authenticity
Fried Calamari
Wikimedia Commons/ Chensiyuan

Fried Calamari

"This American Life" is one of the most popular radio shows out there, and when it broaches the subject of what we eat (or, more accurately in this case, what we think we’re eating), people listen up.

Folks certainly took notice after their Jan. 11 broadcast, in which producer Ben Calhoun claimed that some workers within the meat processing industry believe that pig rectum is in fact being passed off as calamari to unsuspecting diners, but made very clear that he found no actual evidence that this practice is taking place, or ever had.

While the show repeated several times that they had "no proof that anyone, anywhere has ever tried to pass off pork bung as calamari”, the Internet conspiracy machine exploded, and people wanted answers. And while there still remains a (very) remote possibility that someone, somewhere is passing off "bung" (that’s its official name) for calamari, it’s looking like this will need to be chalked up as another food-based urban legend.

A spokesman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, Mark Wheeler, told The Huffington Post that while the texture of bung is similar to calamari, he was unaware of it ever being passed off as the real thing (it would also have to be labeled appropriately, so restaurants would know what they’re getting). 

So due to the fact that nobody out there can definitively prove, or disprove for that matter, if fried calamari is in fact fried calamari 100 percent of the time (even though TAM found no evidence of it taking place), it’ll have to remain an urban legend.

And we’ll be a bit more wary before ordering it next time. 

(Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Calhoun claimed "with certainly" that this practice was taking place. In fact, he maintained throughout the segment that he had no proof that this ever occured. We apologize for the error.)