Something Smells Fishy -- And Like Rectal Leakage, Too

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) in Tallahasee has doubled the fine for any proven offense of food misrepresention in dining establishments (from $250 to $500, which still doesn’t seem like much punishment for deceiving the public -- and increasing profits considerably while doing so). “Floridians ought to be able to trust restaurant owners, and these increased penalties will help us ensure that the food we eat is the food we ordered”, says DBPR Secretary Holly Benson.

Seafood seems to be the main culprit in this bait-and-switch tactic. Eight South Florida restaurants -- three in Broward and fgive in Miami -- have been busted. The most common frauds perpetrated are the ones in which grouper is advertised, but pangasius (striped catfish) is substituted; and escolar (a type of mackerel) gets sold as white tuna. This latter swap can be especially messy, as, according to an online encyclopedia: “Gastrointestinal symptoms 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.” Because of this, escolar has been banned in Japan since 1977. Our own FDA thinks it’s just peachy -- just how powerful is the Depends lobby in this country, anyway?

Here are some local restaurants that between January 1, 2006 and January 30, 2007 were cited by DBPR for “Violation 52: Administrative Complaints for Food Services Misrepresentation” :

Pangasius sold as grouper:

9/13/06 Doral Seafood

12/18/06 El Novillo

1/4/07 La Rosa Restaurant

Pangasius sold as mahi mahi and tilapia:

9/18/06 Lombardi’s of Miami

Escolar sold as white tuna:

8/21/06 Moon Thai & Japanese Restaurant (Broward)

9/27/06 Sakura Thai & Japanese Restaurant (Broward)

10/16/06 Iron Sushi

1/22/07 Sushi Rock (Broward)

--Lee Klein

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse