March 22, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
Spoiler Alert: After reading this you may never look at your grocery store fish quite the same again. And your burger and fries, not to mention pizza, may start to look even better than ever. You’ve been warned.
Eat more fish. It’s good for you. Stay away from red meat. It’s bad for you. Sound familiar? Well, lately I have been trying. I really have been. Though I must admit to a couple of rather lusty day dreams of meat-lovers, thin crust pizza, Brooklyn-style, of course, with Italian sausage.
The problem? Well, for one, it seems that all the wonderful fish I’ve been eating lately is filled with formaldehyde. Yes, that formaldehyde, the kind used for embalming the dearly-departed or swabbing down hospital Emergency Rooms. Yum. How appetizing and healthy. Maybe I should explain.
Recently, the seafood loving scientists at North Carolina State University conducted a series of tests on imported fish sold at your local grocery store. Seems 25% or more of all fish tested contained very high levels of formaldehyde. The source of all this fishy-fish? China and Vietnam. And while formaldehyde, a chemical compound that works well on preserving dead people, it is, not surprisingly, hazardous to the health of the living.
How can this be? Some sort of anomaly? Don’t we inspect the fish we import for this type of dangerously unhealthy contaminant?
Well, apparently, we don’t. In fact, none, nada, zip, zero of the fish we import into the USA gets tested for formaldehyde. Even though it is a known contaminant used by Asian fish exporters as a preserver. And even though we import nearly 90% of all our seafood from China and Vietnam. Last time I checked these two countries were indeed part of the Asian continent. I’ll check again, my geography may be rusty or contaminated apparently just like the fish I have been choking down lately.
But, it gets worse. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), sort of the watch sea-dog of our oceans, found that of ALL the fish we import, we inspect only about 3-4%. That’s it. I found this figure to be alarming. So, I checked in with a colleague at the NOAA. And here’s what I found.
Not only do we inspect a miniscule amount of our imported fish, regardless of its source of origin, we know that Asian fisheries use chemicals like formaldehyde and other contaminant chemical compounds that can cause its consumers (us!) cancer. We know this because apparently we have rejected legislation that would call for increased (anything’s an increase when you start at nothing) inspections and would ban fish or seafood produced with known carcinogens in any levels above trace.
Why have US regulators resisted taking such steps to make the fish we import more healthy and safe? Well, China and Vietnam have lobbied against such steps. And whom, you ask, is the largest importer of fish and seafood produced and preserved with formaldehyde on land? Why, that would be Wal-Mart. Of course.
Argggh me Mateys, Land-Ho, I spot the Wal-Mart super-store parking barge just ahead.
What else have I learned in my obviously failed quest to eat healthier? That China exports the most fish and seafood in the world. They produce nearly 90% of all the global aquaculture production. What does this actually mean?
It means that China is the leader in “farm caught” fish. Think of huge tanks of filthy, partially contaminated water with thousands of fish with no space to swim or move being fed unnatural food by-products, including feces and then killed and gutted and you get only part of the depressing and hazardous picture. It’s like cage-fed, raised and slaughtered poultry except with fish. And unnatural doses of formaldehyde and who knows (apparently not the FDA) what else.
From a chemical-infested tank of fetid water somewhere in China to your kitchen table. Dig in kids, fish is good for you. Un-Holy tartar sauce.
I did some follow-up research on my own. With reassuring, sea-shore fresh names like “fisherman’s Wharf” and “Fresh Catch” and “Catch of the Day” on the bags of frozen fish I found at Wal-Mart, Publix and Winn-Dixie grocers I could almost smell the ocean breeze and taste the sea-salt. But, reality check, what I was smelling and tasting was anything but fresh. or natural.
But when I read the fine print it kept telling me the same bad thing. The frozen Tilapia, Flounder, Cod, Mahi-Mahi or shrimp I “inspected” was farm caught. Every bag of frozen fish I picked up was imported from China, Vietnam, Indonesia or Thailand.
So, I paid a visit to each grocer’s “fresh” seafood counter. There, with few exceptions, I was informed that all the fish and seafood I saw without packaging that looked fresh (non-imported) was actually thawed and originated from (you guessed it) places like China and Vietnam.
Discouraged and disillusioned I left the store and set-off to find the closest Wendy’s. And I won’t even consider their “broiled” cod-fish sandwich. I already know it’s imported from China. Geez, don’t we make anything anymore in the good old US of A?
For more information on the imported fish we eat and issues with fish we catch right here in the USA check out the links below the Tiger.