Anyone who has the vaguest knowledge of marine biology or ichthyology knows the color of tuna meat – bright red. So when I tried a piece of white tuna off my friends chirashi platter a couple years back, I was curious what I was actually eating. I knew it wasn’t tuna, and I know that many many restaurants mislabel the fish they serve (even though its illegal). “Last year, 186 restaurants in the state were cited by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for mislabeling their fish, including 24 that involved tuna substitutions in sushi or sashimi.” You may never know what you’re actually eating, which is a bit frightening.
Anyhow, my friend Chris just sent me an article from the Sun Sentinel, which you can read HERE, about white tuna. Bascially, a class of Nova Southeastern University genetics students (under the direction of amazing scientist and friend of sharks, Mahmood Shivji) tested the species ID of white tuna from 10 local sushi restaurants and found 8/10 were not tuna at all, but actually a fish called escolar (see below). This fish is not even in the same family as tunas. Its meat is buttery and delicious, but many people experience diarrhea after eating it.
From a quick Wikipedia search: “Escolar cannot metabolize the wax esters (Gempylotoxin) naturally found in its diet. This gives the escolar an oil content of 14–25% in its flesh. These wax esters may cause gastrointestinal distress in humans called “steatorrhea”, the onset of which may occur between 30 minutes and 36 hours following consumption. Symptoms may include stomach cramps, bright orange oil in stool, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and anal leakage.” Ew. Also, “Because of the possible effects of consumption, escolar has been banned from consumption in Japan since 1977, as the Japanese government considers it toxic.” I think I’m done eating white tuna.
Photo from fda.gov can be found HERE.