Monday, March 16, 2015

New fish regulations, and how they don't help kosher

The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) released yet another promising looking press release about its upcoming action plan to protect against seafood fraud.  For kosher customers, the main concern is species substitution, the (historically significant)insidious practice of lying about the species being sold and getting away with it (when skinless) since there is no way of identifying the fish without skin.

Today, the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State, released its action plan (ED:based on the full report here).  

Background: lots of countries do stuff when catching fish the US doesn't like.  This report details what the US doesn't like, and calls out countries that violate that (primarily, so it seems to me) to be able to put trade restrictions against those countries or otherwise engage in protectionist practices. 

Issues relating to kosher: these vessels often caught/injured protected species including turtle and shark (not kosher). There is no evidence that the instances of turtle or shark on tuna vessels compromised kosher certification.

Non-addressing of issues relating to kosher: our major issue is that there is nothing (really) stopping someone from fraudulently misrepresenting a kosher species for a non-kosher one.  Though technically economic fraud is forbidden, it is rampant, has been going on for decades and everyone knows about it.  To be fair, most of it doesn't relate to kosher, but is rather "gotcha" issues.  Studies such as Oceana note that "white tuna" (escolar) isn't a tuna at all (despite being kosher, and only being forbidden because FDA hasn't officially recognized "white tuna" as a legitimate market name for escolar, though anyone who wants to knows what it is).  Or wild salmon being substituted for (cheaper) farmed (yawn.)  Or various species of (easier to get) snapper being sold as "red snapper" instead of the market approved "scarlet snapper", "pink snapper", etc.

For kosher customers, there is no quick and easy fix.  We cannot rely on any gov't entity to guarantee species integrity.  The cheap, simple and easy fix?  Buy skin on, check it for simanim.  Nuf said.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What's the story with Costco Salmon (Part I, to rinse or not...)

Its that time of year again when apparently no one has anything else on their minds other than "what's the story with Costco (Kirkland) Frozen Salmon for Passover".  If this product would have a Passover hashgacha, I wonder what I'd do all day.  Since it doesn't, the office is inundated with various variations on this question.

OK, here's the story with the "why does it say I should rinse wild salmon" inquiry:

1. Kirkland sells both wild and farmed salmon products in their freezer section, typically 3lb bags with multiple portions (individually wrapped in clear plastic, often mixed with a salt brine to keep them moist).  See below:

2. A concern was raised several years ago that some wild salmon fisheries glaze the fish with a solution made of a minute amount of corn syrup (batul MANY times past shishim).  Most glazes are plain water, or salt water.  The purpose of the glaze is to protect the fish from bruising and dehydration, so the advantage of adding small amounts of corn syrup is minimal and its use (while legal) isn't all that extensive.

3. Corn syrup itself is kitniyos shenishtaneh, meaning that even for Ashkenazim we would normally be lenient (particularly since the amount is VERY batul, and it is used before Passover and otherwise unable to be detected).  However, since there was a concern, it was deemed appropriate to recommend consumers rinse the offending glaze off of the wild portions.

4. Why are wild different than farmed?  Due to the nature of the processing plant, we have never seen farmed fish glazed prior to their injection with the salt water brine (which effectively does that job).

5. As such, it was recommended to rinse wild, with no need to rinse farmed, and technically there is no need to rinse wild either (just a Passover stringency).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

They see "parasite" and everyone gets nervous

The latest news story in the ongoing saga to make fish forbidden was (unfortunately for the forbidders) a crab and not a parasite  found in a can of (non-OU, as far as we know) tuna.

For the record:

1. Tuna sometimes eat crab and other non-kosher fish.  They rarely find their way into cans.
2, Even if it would have been the parasite it appeared to be (which is assur since it is found in the fishes mouth, and all agree that bugs found there are forbidden -- See RA"E to YD 84:16 with his version of Sha"ch from wording of gemara) it is found in the head which is not part of commercially processed tuna.  Interestingly enough, it eats the tongue of its host and then grabs from everything the fish eats.  Ingrate!
3. A single instance of anything forbidden is not basis for forbidding other things.  How often does it happen?  So infrequently that it was newsworthy.  Nuf said.

Bottom line: continue to enjoy your canned tuna without fear of parasites, though if you open a can and see something looking back at you... remove it.

Return to blogging!

Dear Reader:

Sometimes, we need to take our own advice.  While speaking to someone about blogging on a topic they have expertise in, I remembered you, my dear kosherfish fans.  As of today, I've had over 6300 views (and most are not just me and my mom... I hope).  If so, someone out there may be interested in the latest in kosher fish, and I intend to (bli neder) bring that back to you.  Email kosher questions to, bearing in mine that this is my work email, and my blog is in no way connected to my work (other than that it is the source for most of what I know).