October 23, 2016

"Fish fraud, misrepresenting a fish as a more expensive one, costs Americans $25 billion a year."

"And because less than 100 inspectors check for fraud in the US and everyone from wholesalers to sushi restaurants are free to rip off their customers."

That's a Stuff You Should Know podcast, and I feel that half of you are thinking: I don't have time to listen to a podcast, and if I did, I wouldn't listen to something science-related from people who use "less" where it's supposed to be "fewer."

But: I love the Stuff You Should Know podcast guys. They're very pleasant and relaxing to listen to. So the podcast method of acquiring information is exactly what's best under certain circumstances. (I listen to audiobooks when I'm walking and can give my full attention but I like podcasts when I'm getting dressed in the morning and making my toast and coffee.)

And: There are 5 links at the link, so even if you don't listen to the podcast, you can look into the subject, which made a big impression on me. If you spend money on fish, you should know — as they say in the podcast titled — about this problem.

51 comments:

tim in vermont said...

If you can't tell the difference, have you really been ripped off? Maybe you got a pleasant little thrill out of paying too much?

Big Mike said...

Voter fraud costs us a heck of a lot more.

Bob Ellison said...

Overpriced sneakers cost Americans 1.7 billion dollars per year. Also, frappalappaccinos.

Laslo Spatula said...

I do not eat fish.

I do not eat anything that lives in the water.

Humans are land-based, and should only eat land-based foods. This, obviously, includes meat.

The sea is an entirely different eco-system that man should not encroach upon and alter due to eating desires.

Leave the water-based foods for the water-based species.

Let salmon worry about bears, not man.

I am principled that way.


I am Laslo.

rehajm said...

Replacing Tuna with Escolar is very bad. Escolar is the olestra potato chip of the sea.

Fritz said...

There are about 30,000 species of fish, and about 100 common names to spread between them. A little overlap is inevitable. Seriously though, there are a lot more edible fish out there than what people who frequent restaurants know about. Some of the best eating are the oddest or ugliest looking.

For the most part, if I don't catch it, we don't eat (although my wife does get salmon at the market; they're awfully rare in the Chesapeake Bay).

donald said...

Lotta Tilapia out there. Just sayin.

Bob R said...

We have fish once or twice a week. I trust our source, but according to what I've read the switches occur much earlier. Can't remember when we've bought grouper - which seems the biggest problem. We buy salmon. I understand that some of that is faked, but I've compared what we get to other salmon and other varieties of fish. I like the taste and the price of what we get. Can't see that I'm being ripped off even if it is trout. The one "mystery fish" we often get is "Sea Bass Chunks." That could easily be some other variety, but it's quite inexpensive, and I like the flavor and texture.

I see a lot of this as lazy marketing rather than fraud. They want to use a few familiar names rather than educate people about all of the varieties that are available. The idea that we would get cheaper fish if we had more information (especially if the information if provided by government mandate) seems pretty unlikely.

ndspinelli said...

Much of the fish fraud occurs in the Midwest. Growing up on the east coast, and spending winters on the west coast, restaurants know better than to fuck w/ informed consumers. Having lived in the Midwest, I learned quickly not to order seafood. Not so much for the fraud, but for the freshness. I would go to restaurants out east where local sport fisherman would sell their catch to the restaurant in the late morning. I would ask the waiter what came in this morning, and that's what I would eat. FRESHNESS is key w/ seafood.

David Begley said...

Nds

Jets now fly to the Midwest. In Omaha, we have Absolutely Fresh Seafoid as an excellent retailer. That being said, I wouldn't order seafood in West Point or Mullen due to the lack of volume and turnover for the seafood. Grouper is not a big seller at the Big Red Cafe or Sandhills Club in Mullen.

rhhardin said...

Fishers of men.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Fish fraud, misrepresenting a fish as a more expensive one, costs Americans $25 billion a year.

No, it does not. If they stopped selling the less expensive fish as more expensive fish, they would still sell the less expensive fish ( what else would they do with it? ) at about the same as what they are selling it now ( because that is slightly above cost. ) Sure, the less expensive fish would be slightly cheaper, but the more expensive fish would demand a higher price than it does now. Overall fish spending would remain ~ the same.

The only reason for the government to increase inspection is if there is an actual health difference between consuming one vs. the other.

rehajm said...

Growing up on the east coast, and spending winters on the west coast, restaurants know better than to fuck w/ informed consumers.

The Boston Globe ran with this story for years. East coast diners are easily fooled, too.

rhhardin said...

Sole food.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

I need to get into the fish business.

Henry said...

Stuff You Should Know is a lot of fun. Good for long drives and they keep kids interested too.

Had a conversation on almost this topic yesterday -- but in the context of extra virgin olive oil. Most of it isn't. Best bet is to avoid Italian brands in favor of Californian and Australian.

rehajm said...

Topical entertainment while you're waiting for the game to start...Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

Been listening to the UK Spectator podcasts on the treadmill. Makes 400 calories fly by. Also makes 98% of US media seem like nitwits. The hell with "fish fraud," how much is media fraud costing Americans every year?

tcrosse said...

First World problem. Let them eat Lake Mendota carp.

Sebastian said...

Forthcoming book: Fishy Nation.

Kirk Parker said...

"I listen to audiobooks when I'm walking and can give my full attention" [emphasis added]

Oh, dear. I would advise not listening to any Darwin-related audiobooks in this manner.

Darrell said...

The fish rots from its head.
E.g., Hillary.

Lyle said...

I read the price of lobster is way down, but restaurants and stores keep the price up because they want people to know that lobster isn't a luxury food item.

coupe said...

Larry Olmsted wrote a quick read, that covered not only fish, but other popular foods. It's basically a scam perpetrated by the lax government labeling laws.

"Real Food, Fake Food Why you don't know what you're eating & what you can do about it" Published 2016.

MikeR said...

This is very good news! We can eat much less expensive fish that tastes the same as the expensive junk.

Gahrie said...

Whenever I order swordfish, I presume I am getting shark.

Tasty either way.

Gahrie said...

I read the price of lobster is way down, but restaurants and stores keep the price up because they want people to know that lobster isn't a luxury food item.

Historically, lobster was considered poor man's food, and was often feed to prisoners, who complained. Chicken on the other hand, used to be a rich man's food.

Achilles said...

This issue affects people who can pay $10+ dollars a pound for fish that they can't tell from $6 per pound fish. First world problem.

Obviously we need to hire a lot of lifetime appointed bureaucracrats who work 2 hours a week and get payed on the GS scale. We could hire a million of these people and they would not have enough staff.

Ann Althouse said...

Most of the fraud occurs outside of the United States, not at your restaurant. It occurs on big ships that sort and box up everything and freeze it before it come into our country. We only inspect about 1% of what comes in.

Ann Althouse said...

"Much of the fish fraud occurs in the Midwest. Growing up on the east coast, and spending winters on the west coast, restaurants know better than to fuck w/ informed consumers."

What the hell kind of restaurant grows up on the east coast and winters on the west coast? Seem to me you are anthropomorphizing.

EDH said...

"What kind of fish have you got today?"

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

When it's battered up and fried, or smothered in sauce, who's to know? Caveat emptor. The rest is virtue signalling: "We dined on grilled tuna steaks" vs. "We ate at Red Lobster" vs. "We grabbed something from Long John Silver's."

Not the biggest problem facing our Country today, nor one that an expanded budget for Federal Fish Inspections is likely to be cost effective in solving.

Ipso Fatso said...

I live in Illinois. I only eat Salmon and Trout if I trust the restaurant. I eat other varieties of fish when I am on the coast such as oysters, etc. There is a also great deal of fraud in Cod vs. Pollock with Pollock being much cheaper and more oily fish and passed off as Cod fairly regularly. Fish tastes best when you can get it within 1 to 2 days from the source. Even with overnight delivery from the cost to Chicago for example, you have to factor the time on the boat, time on the dock, processing and delivery and how long it is stored at the restaurant. I find it is just not worth it unless you are near the ocean, lake, etc., where it comes from. Your mileage may vary.

mezzrow said...

So, our fish is every bit as free of corruption as our elections process.

Is that what you're saying here?

People can easily game this fish classification/inspection system, and with the stakes so high and so much money to be made, why wouldn't they? Amazing that no one is doing much about it.

Quaestor said...

Fake fish grammar podcast

Useless podcast, of course it's fake. Everyone knows fish have no language, let alone grammar.

Not the biggest problem facing our Country today, nor one that an expanded budget for Federal Fish Inspections is likely to be cost effective in solving.

I'm not applying for any fish inspection job, not me, no sir! My current job as chicken inspector 23 has become traumatic. Anybody who wants my job can have it. Comes with a badge.

Ipso Fatso said...

Other areas of fraud are when you order Lobster and it is used as an ingredient. Many times they use an extruded Lobster substitute which consists of pollock and various seasonings and extruded to look like chucks of Lobster and then charge you $25.00 for Lobster and Mac & Cheese. Crab is faked the same way. Buyer beware.

David said...

I am lucky to buy all my fish in S.C. at Sea Eagle in Beaufort, where they have the whole fish right there in front of you. When we are in Wisconsin I don't eat fish. No Door County fish boils. Yuck. Used to go to the Friday fish fries when I lived in Milwaukee. Cheap and good and it was all perch and pike (they said.)

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Back in the good old days, when men were men and women had orgasms against their will, guys would use a sharpened pipe and a mallet to cut little hockey pucks out of skate or shark to be sold as scallops.

Such creativity! Such industry!

Ah, those were the days!

Michael K said...

"Chilean Sea Bass" in restaurants, even in southern California is New Zealand Toothfish.

I don't mind them changing the name.

traditionalguy said...

Grouper is a sport fish, and although a huge one, it is high priced; but it has zero flavor.

So all grouper that we order in Restaurants is a very good sauce and seasoning dish over a so called grouper fillet. No one can really tell one tasteless fillet from another.

Order Red Snapper. It is always good.

MayBee said...

Fraud happens everywhere but voting, apparently. Which makes sense since The results of elections have the highest impact on people's lives

Curious George said...

Hmmmm, the amount of inspectors is not sufficient to assure correct identification of fish to consumers but somehow this website can quantify the loss to consumers at $25 billion. How can that be possible?

Howard said...

Local So Cal white sea bass (actually King Croaker) is much better than toothfish. Halibut is over-rated but fun to catch. Nothing beats yellowtail tacos in La Jolla.

bagoh20 said...

How much money do we spend only in pursuit of fooling ourselves that we are special with superior tastes. Out and out fraud perpetrated against ourselves completely by choice. Yea, I'm talking to you, expensive vodka people.

Balfegor said...

Basically, the only fish I eat in the US is "tuna" and "salmon," maybe "swordfish" if they have it. Occasionally trout or branzino, I guess, if the sides look appealing. I'm sure some of what I've eaten isn't quite the right species, but honestly, I wouldn't know the difference.

In Japan and Korea, I eat a broader range of fish, but it's not like I'd be able to tell if the "gulbi" or "ayu" or "sanma" or "gindara" I was eating was a different species since I don't actually know anything about fish. They're frequently served whole, so I kind of assume that other more knowledgeable customers would complain if there were a problem.

bagoh20 said...

If you are both open-minded and honest, you would find the cheaper version of something is sometimes the best, and sometimes even far superior to the more rare and expensive one. This is to be expected as price is mostly based on supply and demand, making some things expensive regardless of their quality. Then people assume the high price means it's good and convince themselves that they like it better. To do otherwise would impune our all-important self-image of sophistication and taste.

If you are serious about being frugal, you can in the same way train yourself to prefer the cheaper version of things, and often you will be rewarded by not having to put up with both low quality and high price. An epic fail that only the sophisticated fall victim to.

Some things that are both low priced and great:

1) McDonald's fries - more satisfying than any other fry

2) Dodge Ram 1500, Hemi, 5.9 pickup truck - Mine has 90,000 hard miles on it, used for work and pleasure every single day. I bought it used 7 years ago. Never had a dealer work on it, it has never had a single issue, not even a flat, and it is still flawless - everything works and looks perfect, great gas milage for the power and size, comfortable with all the fancy accessories.

3) Seagrams Sweet Tea Vodka - I've tried more expensive brands, but it all taste like crap compared to my sweet nectar.

4) Los Angeles tap water - as good as bottled at 5 gallon for a penny. It comes from Sierra mountain snow.

5) Regular gasoline from Arco - 30% cheaper than premium at some places, and you don't get anything from premium unless you have a high compression engine (very rare). Tastes as good as the expensive stuff. Did you know that all the brands buy and sell back and forth so the gas you get maybe from the company you are avoiding anyway. Price is all that counts.

6)Instant coffee. It's worth the extra time and hassle you save to teach yourself to like it, especially if you have one of those taps with instant hot water on your sink. It's just an acquired taste like all the ones you made up for other stuff because they cost more.

7) Sex with your own lover. It takes extra work to keep it hot, but you only want something else because you got lazy and you used to work it. You know how expensive this stuff is now on the open market?

Do you have one of these?

bagoh20 said...

The big one is, of course, wine. Sure the ones that suck are usually low-priced, but good ones are not all high priced. Try the lower shelf until you find a few winners. Do your own blind taste tests. Are you self-confident enough to openly buy, drink, and recommend a cheap wine that tastes really good?

tcrosse said...

Having moved away from the Midwest, I sure do miss the cod sandwich at Culvers.

NoBorg said...

My grandmother was old enough to remember when crab and lobster were considered "poor people" foods that were thought to be revolting by those who were more well-to-do.

I'm curious whether inspectors can reliably tell the difference between different species anyway. It's not as if the big fishing boats come back with intact whole fish, the product is already processed and even frozen while still on board. I suspect the inspectors are alot more interested in checking for spoilage or contamination of some kind.

tim maguire said...

Stuff You Should Know is one of my favourites. Along with You Are Not So Smart, The Infinite Monkey Cage, and Lexicon Valley. I listen to them on the train to and from work.

Howard said...

I don't always drink wine, but when I do, I drink southern hemisphere wine for $6 or less.

Chunk light tuna from Costco

Vodka Monopolowa $10 for 1-Liter at Trader Joes

Chicken thighs, pork shoulder and beef chuck are the cheapest and best tasting meat

Tap water through a Brita filter to remove chlorine