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All About Food: What do you know about the fish you eat?

July 21, 2010|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Adam Halaby shows fresh frozen King Crab legs at the Laguna Beach Farmer's Market Saturday.
Adam Halaby shows fresh frozen King Crab legs at the Laguna… (Don Leach, HB Independent )

Whitewashing: glossing over or covering up vices, crimes, scandals or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data.

Greenwashing: the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly.

Bluewashing: the accusation that some purveyors of fish are making misleading claims as to the "eco-credentials" of their wares.

As if it's not difficult enough to figure out what is safe to eat lately, we now have to contend with misrepresentation of so-called facts about the sustainability and healthfulness of comestible fish. We hadn't even heard of "greenwashing" when the term "bluewashing" was coined. It appears that we not only have to figure out which fish are okay to eat and which are not, based on marketing claims; now we have to know which marketers are lying to us or at least providing us with incomplete, inaccurate or misleading information. To really know if a fish is healthy and sustainable, you would have to know the species, the location of its capture and the fishing or farming method used. At this point, labels don't tell us what we need to know.

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One example of this is that in the United States, frozen filets and canned fish are only required to list the country of processing but not the actual source of the fish. Another example is the controversy about farmed versus wild salmon. Salmon farmers claim that their fish contains more omega-3s than wild salmon, so its healthier, but the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch says to avoid salmon unless it is farmed in enclosed inland tanks. (That labeling has yet to appear.) The Seafood Watch claims that pesticides and antibiotics that some salmon farmers use remain in the fish.

One guideline is to eat non-fish-eating fish or smaller fish because their shorter lives mean they have less time to pick up toxins.

In an eco-conscious world, "sustainable" and "green" are buzzwords that sell, but there are no strict definitions for either. There is ample wiggle room to cash in on the new consciousness. Some think that "sustainable" refers to food raised with minimal environmental impact, while others suggest it is food sourced from local family farms.

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