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Globe Article on Seafood Substitutions.

As the resident seafood distributor, my take on the article: The Globes intentions are good. They are about 75% factually correct. The Pacific Cod substitution drives me crazy. The stuff is crap and tasteless.

They go after Ming Tsai and if I were him I'd be filing a libel suit. Anyone who is eating $20 /lb black cod knows it's not $6 a lb domestic cod and would be offended to be considered in the same realm. Alaskan Butterfish is a widely accepted industry name for Black Cod/Sablefish.

Alma Nove in Hingham gets the star of the day for substituting haddock for cod. Wish all restaurants did that.

Finally, is anyone really surprised the "seafood special" at your local chinese/sushi restaurant is not what you thought it was? I'd hate to know what the chicken really is.

I'd also be curious to know how many of the Globe's advertisers were sampled.

Part 1


Part 2


Alma Nove
Hingham, Hingham, MA 02043

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  1. Thanks for your informed input, I really appreciate it. I found the articles interesting and illuminating.

    1. This has actually been posted a couple of times on this board, but Chowhound mods keep moving the posts to the Food and Media board. It belongs on the Boston board, imho - this is not about Food and Media - it's about Boston food....but I suspect by the time I finish typing this comment, the thread will have vanished.

      I prefer truth in advertising - if it's not really "butterfish" but some sort of pseudonym, tell me what the fish is, educate me as to the virtues of sablefish, and let me decide.

      Otherwise, I think it causes the consumer to lose trust.

      40 Replies
      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        I was surprised no one had posted it, which is why I posted it.

        This does deserve to be in the Boston section.

        1. re: typhoonfish

          I was thinking the same thing - that they'll move it to the Media board - but if we keep the conversation on local vendors, markets, and restaurants, maybe they'll let this thread stay here.

          What do you guys know about Whole Foods - do they have their own distributor? I would (perhaps naively) expect them to be more reliable than a cheap Chinese restaurant where fish labeling is concerned, but I was in the Brighton WF yesterday and saw "Dover sole" for $6 a lb. That's got to be bogus!

          1. re: BobB

            It is bogus - they are selling Pacific sole - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsto...
            which I believe is inferior in taste to the European variety. But as the wiki indicates, it is often marketed as Dover Sole.

            What this article tells me more than anything is that everyone is the supply chain is duplicitous, as the favored named fish begin to disappear. Everyone is worried about losing market share. Not enough cod? All it takes is one unscrupulous supplier to call something cod, when it's not, thus boosting the price, etc.

            I guess what burns me is that, for the money I am spending at places like O Ya or Blue Ginger, I expect at least them to be sourcing and selling honestly.

            O Ya
            9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

            Blue Ginger
            583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              This does nothing but help distributors like us who sell high end expensive seafood. Unfortunately it gives the industry a bad name. I could write a book on the menu nonsense I see and the complete misinformation wait-staff will tell customers.

              We fight battles constantly over the species substitution. I'm on the front lines of the frozen pacific cod battle.

              I'm also an importer of Holland Dover Sole, the whole West coast dover sole is nothing but a cheap smoke and mirrors trick by big retailers. They should know better. Unfortunately it's legal according to FDA to call it west coast "dover sole". So they continue to do it.

              1. re: typhoonfish

                "distributors like us who sell high end expensive seafood."

                All we want is fresh, and local. Oh, and to be able to trust the sign in the fish case or the menu description. Since this article teaches us that we can NOT trust either of these, I won't be buying as much "fish". With an industry wide blow such as this exposée, I don't see how you can expect much of an increase in demand...

                re: Dover sole - shouldn't that be reserved for... sole from Dover?
                ala Block Island swordfish (which hasn't really existed in 15 or so years)

                1. re: okra

                  That's why I only buy fish from Cyndy the Fish Lady, on Thursdays at the Brookline farmers market in season and on Tuesdays at the When Pigs Fly bakery in Coolidge Corner the rest of the year. Always impeccably fresh, never frozen, locally caught. She only offers nine types of fish plus scallops and shrimp, and each is easily identifiable by sight as exactly what it's supposed to be.

                  1. re: BobB

                    Locally caught shrimp? I didn't realize we had local shrimp outside of the ones from Maine during the winter.

                    1. re: emannths

                      Good point - I don't buy shrimp so I didn't pay close attention to that, but looking at her weekly e-mail she lists it as Wild Carolina Shrimp. She also sells fresh Maine crabmeat when she can get it. Everything else is local.

                    2. re: BobB

                      Another alternative is joining the Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF. Members buy direct from the fishermen and there is a whole fish option so you can really see what you are buying. And when it's hake, it's hake, they don't tell you it's anything else (although once you have seen it you wouldn't be misled anyway). Although I must say, having been a CSF member for a bunch of seasons, even with fillets, I can tell the difference between hake, cod and pollack so I am a bit suspicious of chefs saying they can't tell. Typhoonfish, what say you on that part of the article? I suppose I might get confused between different kinds of flounder, but the picture in the Globe of tilapia and snapper showed a clear difference.

                      1. re: BobB

                        I thought Cyndy's fish was from Globe Fish?

                        1. re: Gabatta

                          Could be, I've never asked. All I know is that it is always what it's supposed to be (not that I could necessarily tell tilapia from grouper, but her white-fleshed fish are all standard local varieties like haddock, cod, swordfish and bluefish, which I can definitely recognize).

                          The Globe article does not mention Globe Fish (no relation, I presume) as one of the offenders. They appear to be mostly importers of Asian and other Pacific fish.

                          1. re: BobB

                            Regarding Globe Fish:

                            We've been buying from this distributer all season at our local (Melrose) farmers' market and have been Very satisfied with the quality of everything we bought. For instance, haddock & cod - all white fish from Gloucester, wild salmon from Alaska, hand picked crab meat from Maine, scallops, local bluefish in season and other white fish from Chatham.

                    3. re: typhoonfish

                      Color me confused. I interpret the opening note of this thread as saying you think it's OK for Blue Ginger to call sablefish butterfish. But the Globe article indicates the FDA does not allow such a specific name change.

                      On the other hand, the FDA allows one to call Pacific Sole Dover Sole. And yet you object to that name change.

                      Uh...why is one name change OK and the other is not? Please don't assume that patrons of restaurants are as well-informed as you are about fish names and so on...we clearly are not.

                      Thanks for starting this thread!

                      Blue Ginger
                      583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

                      1. re: hondodog

                        I guess I take for granted that someone who is ordering black cod at $50 a plate, knows it's not domestic cod and most will generally know some of the common iterations of the name. You'll never see a chef substituting black cod for domestic cod. My wholesale price for BC is $11.95 a lb whole, where domestic cod is $2 a lb whole.

                        Where as Dover Sole, the retailers are using semantics to trick people into using a lesser quality product.

                        That's where I make the distinction. Ming Tsai technically might not have been using the FDA approved nomenclature, but was not trying to pull a fast one on anyone. The retailers are trying to pull a fast one.

                        I could also go talk for 20 minutes about the Loup De Mer/ Wolffish/ Branzino / Sea Bass naming argument. Ask me how many times I've sent Loup De Mer to someone in california and they said "what the hell is this?"

                        While we're on that , let's argue about.:

                        Nantucket scallops

                        or chatham cod......

                        or BI swordfish.....

                        or pumpkin sword.......

                        or scrod/schrod/schrod haddock ....(got 2 hours)....

                        or Oyster co-ops.....

                        This is what makes the fish business so much fun and so confusing. The wild west days of species substitution and printing money is rapidly coming to a close.

                        1. re: typhoonfish

                          “I guess I take for granted that someone who is ordering black cod at $50 a plate, knows it's not domestic cod and most will generally know some of the common iterations of the name”


                          I appreciate and have enjoyed reading your perspective on this topic, but why do you take for granted that a diner would possess your specialized knowledge? And wasn't that the point of the article in the first place?

                          1. re: StevieC

                            The point of the article is that Sushi restaurants are substituting Escolar for white tuna. Escolar is known to give people GI problems. That is downright dangerous.

                            IN MY OPINION:

                            The Boston Globe needed a high end restaurant to show they were not picking on one segment of the restaurant population. They didn't find any substitution in Boston worth noting. So they grasped at straws and picked on Ming Tsai with the big name for a minor and I mean minor naming issue. One that most people would not even consider to be an issue.

                            Full disclosure: I have no allegiance to Ming Tsai. I've never eaten there. I do sell black cod/sablefish/alaskan butterfish.

                            I wonder if they could do the same expose on Kobe/Wagyu beef in steak restaurants?

                            1. re: typhoonfish

                              "I do sell black cod/sablefish/alaskan butterfish."

                              Do you sell local (Rhode Island) butterfish?

                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  I think the implied expectation is that "white tuna" is albacore tuna. Is albacore ever actually served as sushi? My expectation is that "white tuna," unless specifically called "albacore," is going to be escolar.

                                  Btw, I suspect it's impossible to eat enough escolar to cause "dangerous" effects. It's simply a laxative whose mechanism is similar to Olestra. Are people going to get all up in arms if they get gas unexpectedly because they didn't know a dish contained beans?

                                  1. re: emannths

                                    It's very possible to suffer from uncontrolllable oily orange rectal discharge from eating escolar at a sushi place . Real life stories abound.

                                    I'd certainly want to have the choice to avoid that. Proper lableing matters.

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      Yes, but 1) such discharge is not "dangerous," and 2) "white tuna" is always escolar. IMHO, if you can accurately identify the fish 100% of the time (as the Globe reports), the fact that the name suggests a false taxonomy is a negligible quibble.

                                      1. re: emannths

                                        1) Anything that can give one diarrhea is a health risk. But beyond a health risk, the social risk stemming from a bout of uncontrollable oily orange rectal discharge is one many people would choose not to take.

                                        2) Putting aside for the minute the fact that escolar is not even tuna, the article stated that escolar is being sold as "albacore," not just white tuna. Any references to escolar being tuna of any color or type is wrong.

                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                          It's not diarrhea, it's steatorrhea, which does not not have the risk of dehydration that makes diarrhea dangerous.

                                          I agree that the instance of labeling it "albacore" is wrong. But that's clearly the exception, and it doesn't change the fact that for practical purposes, white tuna = escolar unless you're looking at a can.

                                          1. re: emannths

                                            For the less-imformed (lots of customers) , "white tuna" would probably mean tuna, not escolar.

                                            Perhaps escolar -- no matter what it is referred to as-- should come with an asterisk warning akin to eating "undercooked" meat.

                                            That way one can avoid oily orange discharge or risk it, according to their preference.

                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                              and people ask why i dont like fish.....

                                            2. re: emannths

                                              "unless you're looking at a can"

                                              which is dolphin!

                                              I'm kidding, I'm kidding (dodges the rotten vebetables)

                                              1. re: emannths

                                                i agree with you. There are so many cases of fish, in particular, being given more marketable names in the u.s.( typhoon could entertain us for a long time with these stories, i bet.)

                                                as to danger of escolar, i have first hand experience with the potential bad effects of eating this fish. Three yrs ago, I had it in an entree portion at a very reliable seafood restnt (we had eaten there numerous times)in Carmel CA, after which i was nauseous sick for a good 7-14 days. I was so freaked out that I spent an afternoon on my computer reading about escolar. It is native to Australian waters and is eaten there in abundance. I found one report about a sequestered study group ( a conference) where the majority of the participants became ill after eating escolar for their dinner the night before. But millions of people eat it and don't get sick. The danger is not that the fish is not fresh, btw; it has to do with the escolar not being able to process oil in what they eat- so it is passed through their system, undigested. And it also seems to be an inconsistent phenomenon throughout that fish breed.Most of the available web info/studies come from Australia, and, as of 3 yrs ago, there were not alot of studies that had been done.

                                                After my Carmel incident, i spoke to 2 diff fish market people there; the independent store owner sold it,no problems, but the WF Monterey "stopped carrying it because we got too many complaints."

                                                Two respected Boston chefs have explained to me that it is only dangerous when eaten in > 6ou. portions (this from the chef/owner of Sushi Island, who calls it "White tuna(Escolar)" and from Jason Santos, chef/owner of Blue Inc.). Such a uniquely delicious fish.

                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                    ham, this is feeling a bit like nanu nanu. reason? the first time i ever HEARD of escolar was in 1995 in......DURANGO CO.!! passing through on a camping trip. this is so weird. Did you read the link? i couldn't tell if the doc was doing a total put-on (the whale harness thing)? or just doing a side goof on an otherwise serious post. you?

                                                  2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                    I agree with the folks above that I have always assumed that white tuna in sushi restaurants refers to escolar, as there is no such fish as "white tuna". Despite the risk of steatorrhea, escolar is delicious in small quantities. (Note, Olestra is still FDA approved despite causing steatorrhea since it is not a health risk, just an unpleasant experience) I haven't heard come across any restaurant that has served albacore as "white tuna", as it is labeled albacore. The flesh of these two fish are quite distinct as barleywino pointed out.

                                            3. re: C. Hamster

                                              I had read that about butterfish on the boards earlier, so when I was in San Diego recently I was hesitant to order it. Happy to report it must have been "real" butterfish because no problem!!

                                            4. re: emannths

                                              fwiw the albacore sushi served in the Pacific NW is usually pink, on the fatty side, and nothing like escolar in appearance, texture or taste. (it's in one of the signature preparations at Tojo's in Vancouver, for example) Black cod is also common in that region (even as sushi, although usually grilled, as at Sushi Island in Wakefield).

                                          2. re: typhoonfish

                                            My wife got sick after eating at a Medford organic "blue" Sushi joint. I wonder now if that is what actually happened? We just assumed she got some bad fish.

                                            1. re: typhoonfish

                                              Agree. I'm glad they did the article, but feel like the black cod/sablefish is a cheap shot. I seem to recall buying it at New Deal, and being given both names. It was great from them, BTW.

                                              1. re: typhoonfish


                                                I think the point of the article was to help create an educated consumer, and in the process hold restaurants accountable to them.

                                                You are in the industry. You consider certain facts about fish to be basic knowledge. Well, they are not. And why would they be.

                                                Re: Ming Tsai - you refer to it as a naming issue that "most people would not even consider to be an issue." Which people? Industry people? I do not think that is the relevant population in this discussion.

                                                1. re: typhoonfish

                                                  I agree with you here. Though I have no experience with the term black cod (it's not used in New England in general, as far as I know) I did grow up with (and still enjoy) smoked sable, which has always been the "high end" fish in Jewish delis, more expensive per pound than the various types of lox and smoked salmon. Thus to me, sable is the good stuff and I can't imagine why he'd want to rename it.

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    i seethe terms black cod and sable both used in NE. Black cod seems to be the name i see it under in japanese restaurants. Nobu has a particularly delicious version of this dish.

                                                  2. re: typhoonfish

                                                    Prime beef. Go to dinner with a butcher and order prime. See what the butcher says...

                                            2. re: typhoonfish

                                              For it to be Dover Sole, doesn't it have to be caught somewhere near Dover (and not Dover NH)?

                                    2. hah! I just ate what I thought was white tuna on Friday night. (I got a chirashi bowl, and the fish weren't listed.) now that I'm reading up on escolar, it makes total sense that THAT's what I was eating. stronger taste, waxy/oily feel. didn't get the GI problems though ... so now I'm wondering if I actually prefer escolar.

                                      1. I do find some of your objections to the article/investigation contradictory. That said, this substitution thing has been going on for a very long time. Back in the late 70's when I was working at a fairly high end restaurant here in Boston, the fish was often "mislabeled."

                                        Generally, I don't eat fish in a restaurant just for this reason. In fact, the only fish I have eaten in a restaurant in the past 10 years would be generic white fish tacos and whole fish. I find these substitutions rather appalling to be honest. Catfish triggers my shellfish allergies, for example. A dangerous condition... since you don't know why you are having the reaction.

                                        I buy fish from New Deal and the Courthouse. I did the Fish CSA for a time, but became overwhelmed by the number of fish cages in my freezer. And so, I cook the fish I eat at home. It is about the most simple protein to cook. This investigation just reinforces my choice.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: smtucker

                                          The Alma Nove haddock was a joke. My personal preference is haddock. Nobody should be substituting anything. Get off your lazy butts and inform your servers what the days changes are. Contrary to what the Globe said haddock is generally more expensive that cod.

                                          Alma Nove
                                          Hingham, Hingham, MA 02043

                                          1. re: typhoonfish

                                            I have always felt that haddock was far superior to cod in flavor, texture, sweetness. Tourists however think what they want is cod, thus the schrod, scrod thing. When I went to the video, it showed a lot of seafood shacks. When the chef, an 18 year old kid opens a vat of skinned cod and haddock, I can see that they wouldn't know the difference enough to tell the person at the window what he was frying. And it is quite likely that the most affordable vat of fish may have a mix of both in it, and the owner is simply not paying attention.

                                            If I was at a nicer restaurant and was told that the fish of the day was haddock, I'd order in a heartbeat. If it was cod, I'd peruse the menu for other selections.

                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                              Same here - I much prefer haddock. Cyndy currently sells both at the same price and I buy haddock almost all the time unless I'm doing a recipe that specifically calls for cod.

                                              1. re: BobB

                                                Ditto this. Grew up eating fresh caught haddock from the docks in Boston (my uncle had a welding place right near what was, at the time, Anthony's - ahhh - fresh caught haddock every Friday...) My mom was adamant - would NEVER eat cod - was def the lesser fish in her book, and I agree.

                                                For some reason I can't see the video & I only can read one page of the article. Going to try another browser... was told a long time ago by the fish monger we used to buy from (need to take a trip over there to stock up - Cram Seafood near Newmarket Sq) that the large scallops sold are usually fish cheeks. He always told us what was good, what to avoid.

                                                1. re: BobB

                                                  I much prefer haddock if it's broiled as a fillet too, use cod more for stews etc. I think we are partly to blame for the mislabelling because so many of us ask for fillets at the market. I applaud WF and a few other stores for displaying whole fish because it's up to us to learn to tell them apart. In France and Italy most of the fish is sold whole because the public is wary of substitutions, and the fishmonger will always skin and fillet the fish for you.

                                            2. re: smtucker

                                              Why not eat the whole fish sold in plenty of Asian restaurants? if you are being swindled, you can see the evidence right there.

                                            3. I still can't find the part one of the article. I was interested in the Ming/Butterfish thing. I was wondering what he was being accused of. Although he may of introduced Miso Butterfish to Boston, he certainly didn't pen the name.

                                              This fluff article from 2003 might have been good for the reporters to read had they done a simple investigation on 'butterfish'


                                              "When I see miso butterfish at my grocery store now, I'll know it's not a real butterfish, but a marinated black cod, which is really a sablefish."

                                              So what happened to part one of the article?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                                How's this for Irony? The tv show Hawaii 5'0 just talked about butterfish, and they were certainly not refering to the little buggahs but black cod/sable fish! Take that phone it in Globe reporters. You had a good story, albeit an old story and you blew it with butterfish.

                                              2. Well I know I won't be eating at El Oriental de Cuba restaurant in Jamaica Plain. From the article:

                                                For instance, Nobel Garcia, owner of El Oriental de Cuba restaurant in Jamaica Plain, admitted serving ocean perch instead of the $14 red snapper in garlic sauce promised on his menu.

                                                “They are completely different fish. I’m not going to lie to you,’’ he said. The switch, Garcia said, began when red snapper was hard to find and more expensive - he could buy ocean perch for about $4 pound, compared with roughly $8 a pound for red snapper fillets. "The flavor is pretty good,’’ he said. “I have never received any complaints about it in the last couple of years.’’

                                                And Minado. From the article :

                                                Minado, a bustling buffet restaurant off Route 9 that churns out hundreds of rolls of sushi and nigiri pieces daily, admitted it labeled tilapia as red snapper.

                                                “Not because we are trying to trick,’’ said Alexa Poletti, a Minado manager. “We’re doing it how everybody does it.’’

                                                Minado Restaurant
                                                1282 Worcester St, Natick, MA 01760

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: viperlush

                                                  I found the quote from the Minado Manager to be highly offensive. "We lie to our customers and purposefully deceive them because everyone else does it." Did I get that right Minado? That place is the suck anyway.

                                                  1. re: viperlush

                                                    If you're going to a buffet for sushi and nigiri you shouldn't be surprised that these sort of things happen.

                                                    1. re: Msample

                                                      There is a difference between "these sort of things happen" and a restaurant's Manager publicly commenting in the region's largest newspaper that they are lying to their customers and justify doing so because others do the same.

                                                      1. re: Gordough

                                                        Or simply for $$ when you have uncomplaining customers

                                                        "For instance, Nobel Garcia, owner of El Oriental de Cuba restaurant in Jamaica Plain, admitted serving ocean perch instead of the $14 red snapper in garlic sauce promised on his menu.

                                                        “They are completely different fish. I’m not going to lie to you,’’ he said. The switch, Garcia said, began when red snapper was hard to find and more expensive - he could buy ocean perch for about $4 pound, compared with roughly $8 a pound for red snapper fillets.

                                                        “The flavor is pretty good,’’ he said. “I have never received any complaints about it in the last couple of years.’’

                                                      2. re: Msample

                                                        Never said I was surprised by their behavior. But like Gordough said, the region's largest newspaper called them out on deceiving their customers and all they did was brush it off and make excuses. I don't like the blatant lying to customers.

                                                      3. re: viperlush

                                                        brilliant. "everybody does it" is an excuse???

                                                        1. re: lifeasbinge

                                                          Apparently. After all, that excuse worked so well for me as a teenager.

                                                      4. It's funny you mention the ad revenues. They note over 100 restaurants and then single out small potatoes places and Ming, but surely the big guys are doing the same thing. (I pitched this piece to them a couple of years back and was told it wasn't a story. Hah!)

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: scotty27

                                                          I can't read the article, but I find singling out a couple of people/places to be offensive in itself. Yeah, I guess that's how they make their story - hey, how about a story about newspapers that use cheap techniques to gather readers...

                                                          1. re: threedogs

                                                            I agree, 3-D. The bigger issue, which the Globe's unsigned op-ed confused today, is that the F.D.A. lost funding in 1/11 to help it monitor and test all incoming products, such as fish, vegetables, fruit, meat, and, most importantly, medicines manufactured in China and India. The mislabeling of fish is unfortunate: How about buying from good shops, like Mac's in Wellfleet or New Deal in East Cambridge, rather than eating out? Fish problem solved. The graver issues are the food borne illnesses and medicines that the F.D.A. is struggling to address: Salmonella from cantaloupes originating in Central America; seeds--fenugreek--from Egypt; and, pharmaceuticals from India and China. This fish issue is a huge distraction.


                                                            1. re: scotty27

                                                              "The bigger issue, which the Globe's unsigned op-ed confused today, is that the F.D.A. lost funding in 1/11 to help it monitor and test all incoming products, such as fish, vegetables, fruit, meat, and, most importantly, medicines manufactured in China and India"

                                                              Great to know. Now if you don't mind, I'm going back down in my hole-in-the-ground to hide. Safer there...

                                                              1. re: threedogs

                                                                The trick is to stay healthy. Uh oh.

                                                                1. re: scotty27

                                                                  Yeah - today it IS quite a trick...

                                                        2. I frankly want to see the major papers in all the big dining cities do this, and put the restaurant and restaurant supply chains on notice that they can be busted and shamed for doing this.

                                                          It's one reason I don't order filets of fish too often when dining out, unless it's a variety that's hard to relabel, as it were. But I think the practice is noxious, and the industry needs to be held accountable for its dishonesty.

                                                          And I don't care that Johnny's mommy lets him do it. For anyone even to adopt that line of rationalization is debased.

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                            The Florida papers ran a bunch of pieces on grouper and then the NYT did the same. Florence Fabricant did a story in the Times on wild salmon that was fascinating. In Boston, you can't go wrong at Legal as they are dead serious about the honesty of the product...

                                                            1. re: scotty27

                                                              Except that one Legal outpost (Peabody) did, in fact, serve mislabeled fish and even insisted the fish was something it wasn't when questioned by the reporter.

                                                              @Bellachef: The issue re butterfish is that local chefs -- Ming Tsai most notably -- are selling another fish under this name, which violates FDA regulations. The entire article is about the various ways that consumers are being defrauded or accidentally misled into paying for something they are not served. Using an incorrect species name, however common, is one of them.

                                                              1. re: misscucina

                                                                well then with that argument, every single store and restaurant that sold or prepared Chilean Sea Bass shoud be taken to task and held accountable.

                                                                1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                  The FDA considers Chilean Seabass to be an acceptable name: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Pr...

                                                                  The FDA does not consider butterfish to be an acceptable name for sablefish.

                                                                  You can search for names acceptable market names here: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/Scripts...

                                                                  1. re: emannths

                                                                    thanks for the links

                                                                    Sablefish Sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria Black Cod/ Butterfish/ Skil/ Skilfish/ Beshow/ Coalfish

                                                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                      Those are the "vernacular names." They are for reference only and not to be used in commerce:

                                                                      "Vernacular names generally are not acceptable market names and their use as such may result in misbranding. Vernacular names are provided in The Seafood List only to assist with cross-referencing to an acceptable market name."


                                                                      In particular, calling sablefish "butterfish" would probably be considered false or misleading according to the FDA because "the name is the same as the name of another species ... and it is not reasonably encompassed within a group of species so named. "

                                                                      1. re: emannths

                                                                        The problem for butterfish, sablefish, black cod and often snapper, lies fundamentally with naming convention. There are a least a half dozen genera of fish that are called butterfish, not to mention the number of species so called (in the vernacular). Not to mention all the confusion in translation from Asian languages to English. The only way of completely eliminating the confusion from naming convention is to use scientific names, but remembering Anoplopoma instead of "sablefish" can be quite a mouthful.

                                                                        Mind you, there is a distinct line between genuine mistaken identity and intentional deception. I certainly find restaurants who knowingly sell tilapia as snapper, etc. to be deplorable. I am just suggesting that not all restaurants making errors in menu labeling are so devious.

                                                                        1. re: rlee21

                                                                          Totally agree. I just wanted to clarify what the rules say w.r.t. sablefish/butterfish.

                                                            2. re: Karl S

                                                              I know in order to write an interesting article they need to focus on individuals - but if they claim that over 100 restaurants in the Boston area are deceiving the public - why not publish their names?

                                                              I agree that the industry DOES need to be held accountable though.

                                                              Edit: Finally got to actually *read* the article - doesn't seem to me that they're really singling anyone out.

                                                                1. re: nonaggie

                                                                  Wow, thanks for posting that link nonaggie. The more I look at it , the more I think that the authors put a spin on their story.

                                                                  Of the 48% that failed the DNA test the majority was due to a strange industry standard that calls escolar white tuna or super white tuna. But it is an accepted term in the industry. It doesn't prove that they are being deceitful by calling it that. Although I do find it a strange industry standard.

                                                                  Unless I missed it, there was only one restaurant that was tested for 'butterfish' and I am pretty sure that after all these years that Ming is not the only person serving what is again an industry standard name for his dish. He was forthcoming and honest, and they spun it to their means.

                                                                  What I find most interesting is the cod/haddock debate. I would like to see the numbers and spreadsheet the authors have for deciding that haddock is a less expensive fish, therefore leaving the impression that establishments that mistakenly serve one are doing it intentionally to save a few pennies per serving. I did a quick search of wholesale prices on cod and haddock and it fluctuated back and forth on which fish was more expensive.

                                                                  So when you deduct those places from their list of 48% it comes down to a small percentage of low end restaurants that are using tilapia as another fish.

                                                                  They stacked the deck to make their story sound like a conspiracy. It has gone a bit viral and has been picked up across the country. They are the whistle blowers of an old story and they spun it as if it was breaking news. And while doing that they decided to take Ming down for no reason.

                                                                  If I was the editor and had footed the bill for this expensive DNA study, I would be reconsidering their next assignment.

                                                                  1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                    haddock/cod pricing from one source on one day shows haddock being the more expensive fish

                                                                    Hadd SHad LCod MCod SCod Cusk Hake Poll Monk BB LemS Dabs GryS YT Skate Wolf Scal
                                                                    Tail &BB Wing
                                                                    NEW BEDFORD: WHALING CITY SEAFOOD DISPLAY AUCTION
                                                                    Monday 216 213 216 204 183 78 70 65 337 87 272 150 153 97 27 - 990
                                                                    10/17/11 251 221 240 223 238 - 238 117 543 267 - 215 723 153 79 - 1125
                                                                    Tuesday 239 122 188 168 169 70 40 96 387 197 270 142 163 124 72 - 1060
                                                                    10/18/11 314 244 272 214 181 - 224 155 553 237 - 170 706 159 87 - 1095
                                                                    Wednesday 224 225 217 196 176 - 68 141 395 - - 136 194 138 85 - 1030
                                                                    10/19/11 264 236 365 257 191 - 252 161 585 - - 186 716 221 87 - 1200
                                                                    Thursday 224 218 195 189 182 73 63 136 312 112 288 135 156 128 71 - 1065
                                                                    10/20/11 278 228 327 247 199 - 215 171 530 299 289 164 516 188 81 - 1160
                                                                    Friday 227 224 187 196 192 22 95 160 418 116 304 142 159 94 27 - 1045
                                                                    10/21/11 252 229 213 225 - - 206 167 461 228 306 189 497 166 88 - 1105
                                                                    BOSTON-WHALING CITY SEAFOOD DISPLAY AUCTION This report is no longer available
                                                                    Hadd SHad LCod MCod SCod Cusk Hake Poll OPch BB LemS Dabs GryS YT Monk Wolf Skat
                                                                    Tail Wing
                                                                    CAPE ANN SEAFOOD EXCHANGE AUCTION
                                                                    Monday 238 240 207 162 176 99 50 81 104 183 - 141 160 100 374 - 73
                                                                    10/17/11 275 241 327 225 - - 209 119 110 - - 189 520 105 516 - 85
                                                                    Tuesday 274 191 277 230 - - 221 68 83 201 - - 169 - 380 - 71
                                                                    10/18/11 - - 386 250 - - 237 144 - - - - 464 - 517 - -
                                                                    Wednesday 306 206 320 203 - - 217 107 67 197 - 102 250 - 543 - 60
                                                                    10/19/11 - - 366 234 - - 227 161 - - - 192 579 - 546 - 84
                                                                    Thursday 226 195 202 190 175 - 40 112 30 191 - 137 166 97 397 - 60
                                                                    10/20/11 289 282 351 256 202 - 220 201 119 216 - 207 498 129 535 -
                                                                    Friday 280 164 234 211 185 - 114 108 49 200 - 98 209 99 375 - -
                                                                    10/21/11 330 308 349 253 185 - 230 212 - 213 - - 212 - 504 -
                                                                    OCTOBER 21, 2011

                                                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                      I told you.

                                                                      I'm selling haddock today for $7.45 for fillets cod $6.95

                                                            3. as a unsophisticated eater who has been told his entire life in massachusetts that fish is wonderful, and who, in his fifties has decided it all pretty much tastes the same to him, does not have a dog in this fight.
                                                              yet, as an outside observer, it seems that another 20 or 30 years, there will be little, if any, fish that is not grown in someones backyard. it does not surprise me in the least that people are renaming lesser fish and trying to sell them for top dollar. the entire industry seems rife with questionable practices and uneven (if not actually criminal) Q.C. im surprised anyone is surprised.
                                                              leave 'em all in the ocean.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: hyde

                                                                I like fish - have my entire life - but as someone who is also in her fifties, I can remember the days when we just ate what was caught locally - before it became fashionable. Sigh...

                                                              2. That was sort of my take on it. I like albacore sashimi, and I've seen it as white tuna, but it's pink and it tastes more like the albacore you get in a can. I love escolar, and I've seen that as white tuna as well, and it's white as Corian. I've always known not to serve it or eat it as anything more than a couple of ounces. And as you said, Alaskan butterfish, which is delicious incidentally, was a term contrived to better market sable, aka black cod, as an effort to draw sales away from the endangered Chilean sea bass (not a bass, either). Kudos to Ming for making the switch himself. The one that has always bugged me is the Izumi Dai translated as red snapper. It's tilapia, and has always been tilapia. I still eat it as sashimi, but I can't stand the stuff cooked. I think if people saw all the carbon monoxide treated, IQF fillets distributed by True World and JFC, they'd hesitate to eat at sushi spots quite so often. I kind of takes the mystique out of it.

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: almansa

                                                                  Actually, one of the reasons I often avoid eating filleted fish with white flesh is that I suspect tilapia is often being substituted for the named fish, and I hate tilapia.... Believe it or not, I trust proven clam shacks along the New England shore are giving haddock as advertised, but not more genteel restaurants....

                                                                  If enough people like me start to avoid ordering easily deceivable fillets on restaurant menus, then restaurants are going to have to take the sourcing and truth in labeling issue more seriously. I think that, plus press-induced shame, is the only way for progress to occur on this issue. Frankly, if I were a restaurateur, I'd want to be able to say to my customers that I had joined a consortium of suppliers who made seriously credible efforts on certification and truth in labeling.

                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                    I've read some pretty disturbing reports - with equally disturbing photos - of some of the polluted waters that tilapia is taken from in Asia. That's why I avoid it - would SO prefer to see the whole fish I'm gonna eat to be sure what it is.

                                                                    1. re: threedogs

                                                                      I work in the business and would not eat nor feed my family tilapia.

                                                                      1. re: typhoonfish

                                                                        Discounting the bland factor, what do you think of the closed system farmed Tilapia?

                                                                        1. re: loper

                                                                          If I could differentiate then maybe I'd be interested. I show up at my mother in law's house and she has tilapia from the supermarket I all of a sudden have a stomach ache.

                                                                          Same with farmed salmon. If it's $4.99 farmed salmon from Chile at the supermarket, hell no. If it's $11.95 Norwegian salmon, absolutely.

                                                                          One of our big products is Arctic charr which is raised in closed containment system in Iceland. No waste into the eco-system

                                                                          I'll eat charr over salmon any day of the week.

                                                                          1. re: typhoonfish

                                                                            Yes, char is one of my favorite fish. And very sustainable.

                                                                            1. re: typhoonfish

                                                                              Waterfield farms in Hadley and E&T on the Cape seem to be 2 local sources for closed system tilapia, though most or all of their fish end up in the live fish trade at asian markets and restaurants.

                                                                              1. re: typhoonfish

                                                                                ok...I'm almost afraid to ask...what's wrong w/ salmon from the supermarket or Costco?

                                                                                I like Artic Char too, but sometimes wish it had more flavor (I'd take steelhead trout over char)...

                                                                                My brother and I call Tilapia poopy fish :-)

                                                                                1. re: Spike

                                                                                  There are a lot of concerns with farming most fish, including salmon. These include general environmental impact, impact on specific species, toxin accumulation in the farmed fish, etc.

                                                                                  Interestingly, one study found that toxin levels were higher in European farmed salmon than Chilean farmed salmon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquacult...

                                                                                  1. re: Spike

                                                                                    Not all supermarket salmon is farmed - wild-caught fish is clearly labeled (usually sockeye, not the bestest salmon but pretty good on the grill).

                                                                      2. Another one


                                                                        On Sunday, the Boston Globe published what has become a much-talked-about investigative piece about the way fish is mislabeled in restaurants — including Wellesley’s Blue Ginger — grocery stores, and seafood markets.

                                                                        “The Alaskan butterfish at celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger in Wellesley was really sablefish, traditionally a staple at Jewish delicatessens, not upscale dining establishments.,” said the Globe, which collected samples from 134 places selling fish and had DNA testing done on them. The tests found that 48 percent of the samples tested were mislabeled.

                                                                        Today, Ming Tsai shot back through his PR firm. The release said in part:

                                                                        “The reporter unfairly singled out Blue Ginger’s use of the term butterfish for sablefish and misquoted Ming Tsai to further sensationalize her story.

                                                                        “Chef Tsai feels very strongly about educating the public about the issues raised by the piece and wishes to clarify facts that the writer did not report accurately on. ”
                                                                        This is what he claims was the exact quote:

                                                                        “Sablefish is commonly called butterfish and black cod in the industry. Many chefs across the country use these names. I serve it because it is delicious and very PC, line caught and still plentiful – by the way, it is expensive because it is so popular now. I used it as a substitute for Chilean sea bass when that fish was over-fished 10 years ago. At the end of the day, as chefs, we want to provide the best tasting fish possible, and be as responsible as possible to our seas. This fish meets these objectives.

                                                                        “We have always told customers from day one that butterfish is also known as sablefish and even say it was commonly smoked and made into a fish spread, as the Globe noted. As a side note, we use only big eye tuna from Hawaii which is also plentiful compared to the over-fished bluefin tuna. I do 100% agree with the article that people that substitute a lesser quality fish and sell it as something else is absolutely wrong. This is not the case with butterfish/sable.

                                                                        “I encourage you to go to the U.S. government’s National Marine Fisheries Service website which clarifies the fact that butterfish is an acceptable vernacular name for sablefish. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/sp...

                                                                        Read more: Hooked in Globe story, Wellesley’s Ming Tsai comes out fighting | Wellesley Townsman Blog http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/wellesle...

                                                                        Today's globe.


                                                                        Celebrity chef Ming Tsai, who owns the Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, said he believed Alaskan butterfish, his signature dish, was a suitable label for the sablefish he was serving. Tsai said that when he put it on the menu more than a decade ago, he consulted his supplier and other chefs to find a better-sounding name for sablefish.

                                                                        According to the FDA, eight species can be called butterfish, but sablefish is not on the list of acceptable market names. Tsai said he was not trying to pass off an inexpensive fish as pricey, noting that he pays $20 a pound for sablefish, which is sustainable and line-caught.

                                                                        “I did not ever intentionally deceive customers,’’ he said. “I did make a technical mistake and now that I know, I’ll change the name.’

                                                                        Blue Ginger
                                                                        583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: typhoonfish

                                                                          "According to the FDA, eight species can be called butterfish, but sablefish is not on the list of acceptable market names."

                                                                          Ugh. No. As written, that's incorrect. Sablefish IS an acceptable market name. Butterfish is NOT an acceptable market name for sablefish. The sentence should read "According to the FDA, butterfish is an acceptable market name for eight species, but sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is not one of them."

                                                                          If pro writers can't get it right, it's hard to blame those in the industry for saying that compliance is hard.

                                                                          1. re: typhoonfish

                                                                            I don't get it. What doesn't sound good about sable? Growing up in Brooklyn, we used to get sable occasionally as a treat, something special beyond the usual lox and whitefish. Sable always sound luxe to me......

                                                                            1. re: katzzz

                                                                              I posted something similar above - to a lox eater, sable is the good stuff. But it strikes me that those who didn't grow up eating REAL traditional Jewish deli (i.e., most everyone who didn't grow up in a major northeast city or a few other enclaves points west) have probably never heard of sable.

                                                                          2. Just happened to have TVDiner on in the background and heard them describing some restaurant as serving a dish called, "Organic Salmon" c'mon?????

                                                                            1. This may be a myopic opinion that only a Hound can appreciate, but to some extent, wouldn't it make sense to refer to the fish on the menu by the scientific/ species name?
                                                                              "Specius, Fishus *in Beurre Blanc sauce with capers and organic roma tomatoes with a Unicorn tear drizzle"

                                                                              Astersik at the bottom of the menu: *Specius, Fishus is commonly referred to as : commonly marketed name A, commonly marketed name B and commonly marketed name C.

                                                                              In the end I feel this would lend itself to a more educated consumer. As someone mentioned earlier, the scientific/ species name can be a mouthful, and I also understand that a restaurant's menu is one of it's chief marketing tools ( Wow, that sounds awesome, as opposed to WTF is Specius, Fishus?)

                                                                              I expect that coastal regions may put more truck in this than than most of the country, but regionally, we have some skin in the game (economically) on this topic and there appears a concerted understanding ( at least by hounds-not that we're any better than anyone else) about consuming sustainable vs. overfished, or poorly farmed product.

                                                                              3 Replies