That Ain't Grouper on Your Plate:

The Washington Post reports that the fish you order is not always the fish you get. Investigators ordered grouper at 24 Florida restaurants, but genetic testing revealed it was only the real thing seven times. Accoding to the story, the high demand for grouper and other popular fish has caused a surge in seafood imports, and that much imported fish is not what the sellers claim. In most cases it was Emperor fish or Asian Catfish. There is good news, however. Major food distributors, such as Sysco, have begun random testing of their fish supplies to ensure authenticity, and this appears to be reducing the rate of fish fraud.

Orielbean (mail):
Buy fresh fish always! Ask your restaurant if they go to the docks each morning to buy the fish. If fish smells, then it was likely frozen. I used to work at a fine-dining seafood place, and management took us there a few times to the fish sellers at like 3 am. Red Lobster in Kansas is likely not fresh.

If you buy it at the grocery store, ask the fish counter how they get the stuff. It is too bad for those who don't live near the coasts, as fresh seafood is a wonderful thing. The big distributors carry all the weight here for the non-coast dwellers - if they don't do it, it don't get done.
2.13.2007 9:27am
rarango (mail):
Concur with Orielbean--having grown up in Miami and always ate fresh fish that we usually caught ourselves I never understood how quicky fish deteriorates in quality once frozen. My thought is that any fish fresh is probably going to be better than top quality fish frozen (esp more oily fish such as mahi mahi or salmon)
2.13.2007 9:46am
There are some strange names for some of the substitutes. "Green weakfish," "Painted sweetlips." Neither of those sounds good.
2.13.2007 10:28am
MH (mail):
Now I'm suspicious. Are the feathers on salmon light or dark?
2.13.2007 11:09am
Uh, who cares? I mean, is the preference for Pantagonian toothfish ("Chilean sea bass") over painted sweetlips so rational that I should resort to CSI-style investigation to make sure I'm getting the right one? Assuming the food is healthful, wouldn't relying on my palate be a better choice?
2.13.2007 11:25am
Orielbean (mail):
This is like getting the Asian bootleg movie DVD where it was taped in the theatre - we get grouper-ish fish on the cheapo. What sucks is when the distributor still charges the high price or even market price for the wrong product.
2.13.2007 11:28am
Stating the Obvious:
I agree with Malvolio. It is not true that we are overpaying for "cheap substitutes". We are ordering a taste experience. If we can't tell the difference between the two fish but we enjoy the experience, I'd be surprised if the experience is diminished by subsequent DNA analysis. If you enjoyed the meal more than the alternative uses of the price of the meal, you got your money's worth. This is NOT like an art novice sold a false Picasso. There is no resale value in an eaten fish.
2.13.2007 11:51am
How do we know that people are enjoying the substitutes as much as they would have enjoyed the real thing? If I ordered grouper I probably wouldn't know if I got a substitute, but I've certainly ordered fish that I know I have enjoyed in the past, but dislike that order. I wouldn't know enough to be able to accuse the restaurant (or other seller) that the fish was a fake, but that doesn't mean that I got the full value out of it.
2.13.2007 12:06pm
It is not true that we are overpaying for "cheap substitutes". We are ordering a taste experience.

I guess the old rumor about McD's using kangaroo meat didn't bother you.

But regardless of the taste experience, people and companies should not lie about the products they sell. Isn't that fraud? My reasons for choosing fish X shouldn't matter.
2.13.2007 12:41pm
I'd be interested in seeing what impact the random testing will have on 'waste' with regards to catches. As it is, commercial fishing tends to be rather indiscriminate. The likely result of such would be the disposal of fish that aren't marketable. Sort of unfortunate, even if it will reduce misrepresentation in the marketplace. But then, I find the healthy-eating environmentalists that demand ocean fish over farmed amusing, despite the differences in ecological impact, so my perspective could be off.
2.13.2007 2:11pm
Hattio (mail):
I have to say, that having worked in the fishing industry, it also matters how fish is handled (whether before freezing or before serving fresh). Flash frozen is better than frozen, live bled is better than later processing etc. But, yes, fresh is definitely the way to go if it can be done.
2.13.2007 2:12pm
Fish sold as 'walleye' is sometimes actually 'zander', a European fish.
2.13.2007 2:28pm
Orielbean (mail):
I am still in Chukang's camp on this one - if you want a trash fish that tastes like tuna or mahi, go for it! If the distro guy knows of a cheap filler that tastes similar to the real thing, then he should sell it as that fish, not as the one it tastes like! The point here is not the taste or taste experience or whatever - the point is a lack of quality control. Who cares if your tuna has a little dolphin in it? Who cares if your chicken has some ground up kangroo in it? You should.

You don't have to be some sort of food snob to at least get the breed that you paid for. Why not market that cheap fish as a low-cost alternative to the fresh stuff? I can buy a tuna steak for 10 bucks or a can of tuna for 1 - and they have a quality difference I am sacrificing to save 9 bucks for...

The reason I stated that fresh is important is part of the quality control issue here that this article is all about. If Sysco didn't give a shit about QC and only cared about taste, then they would work on some flavoring agents and not on inspecting the fish stock.
2.13.2007 3:29pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
eddy: at least both walleye and zander are pike. Zander is highly considered in Europe, so I wouldn't consider that a downgrade necessarily. It's not quite accurate labeling, though....
2.13.2007 4:46pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):

The likely result of such would be the disposal of fish that aren't marketable.

Two words: cat food.
2.13.2007 8:35pm