Are you sure that's sushi you're eating?

Sushi consumers, take note. That sushi you're eating may not be what you think. A new study finds that sushi on your plate is often a fraud, health hazard or endangered species.

Sushi if it actually is sushi could be hazardous to your health, according to a survey of 68 Tuna sushi restaurants in New York and Denver.

"A piece of tuna sushi has the potential to be an endangered species, a fraud, or a health hazard. All three of these cases were uncovered in this study," according to results of a study published on the PLoS One peer reviewed science web site. That's enough to curb my already infrequent consumption of sushi. 

The health hazard fish that was found in "escolar" which is banned in Japan and Italy. Five of nine samples were sold as "white tuna" variants and were found to escolar, according to the study.

Wikipedia describes the lugubrious health impact of eating Escolar.

"The gastrointestinal symptoms, called "keriorrhea", caused by these wax esters may include oily orange diarrhea, discharge, or leakage from the rectum that may smell of mineral oil. The discharge can stain clothing and occur without warning 30 minutes to 36 hours after consuming the fish. The oil may pool in the rectum and cause frequent urges for bowel movements due to its lubricant qualities and may be accidentally discharged by the passing of gas. Symptoms may occur over a period of one or more days. Other symptoms may include stomach cramps, loose bowel movements, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, and vomiting."


Depending on where you are in the world, escolar is "deceptively" sold as walu, sea bass, orange roughy and codfish all common restautrant seafood dishes. Naively, the only seafood deception I ever think about is fake scallops cut from skates.

As for the endangered species, the study found nineteen samples of the northern bluefin tuna or the "critically" endangered southern bluefin tuna. Mislabeling was common, the survey found. How would the hapless restaurant patron ever know unless they got the symptoms described above? They wouldn't.

The samples were collected between June and December last year and preserved in ethanol. DNA was extracted from the samples and compared against DNA sequences from eight species downloaded from GenBank, the National Institutes of Health's public database of DNA sequences.

This is not the first time sushi and seafood have come under fire for being mislabeled in restaurants. Two graduate students last year in New York collected 60 samples and rather easily through DNA testing found a quarter of them were mislabeled.

I am not big on Sushi. but from the 50 comments on Slashdot to the latest study, there many who purport to be. Said efficionados focus on the difference between Sushi and Sashimi while others joke about the explosive gastronomical nature of Escolar. My favorite thought was "Eating sushi is almost as disgusting as eating raw fish!"  Indeed.

And with that, Happy Turkey Day.

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