Yesterday someone forwarded me an article from People magazine titled "The best fish to buy," by fitness and health food guru Harley Pasternak in which he lauds the consumption of farmed seafood over wild. Among the benefits he touts is a reduced likelihood of contamination from mercury and PCBs, which he claims are not as much of a risk in a "controlled, farmed environment."
I'm not sure who exactly got to Pasternak, but he's bought what they're selling hook, line and sinker. Most of his "facts" are credited to Oceana. The remainder of his piece continues the fear-mongering about wild fish by citing statistics about species substitution. The last time I checked, buying farmed wasn't a protection against substitution.
What this article does in essence is continue to scare people away from eating seafood, despite Pasternak's initial claim that it's a healthy source of protein. If you believe even half of what he says about seafood, you'd never bother to touch the stuff again. This is People magazine's health and fitness guru. I suppose I should lower my standards for People, but I am not sure that's possible. What scares me is their reach. Articles like this undo all the hard work of fishermen, their families and their associations who have been battling the persistent myths about American seafood.
In other news of the apparently powerful, misguided and misinformed, our federal government continues their food-service contracts with Sodexo USA, despite the company's refusal to buy Alaska seafood. Why? Because Alaska seafood is certified through Responsible Fishery Management based on the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization standards. Sodexo buys only Marine Stewardship Council-certified seafood. (I wonder what certifications they accept for chicken, beef and pork.)
The big question is why is the federal government choosing one independent certifier over another when neither of them is an agent of this government? If anything, they should be deferring to the UN's FAO standards because the United States is a member of that organization.
I would hope our federal agencies would take this moment to reconsider their contracts with Sodexo USA if the company is going to refuse to supply them with fish from their own country and instead defer to globally sourced fish simply because it has an MSC label (popularized by McDonald's and Walmart).
Has no one in our government spoken with Sodexo to inform them that FAO standards are A-OK? I can't imagine being torn if I had to weigh my options between being on Team Walmart versus Team Alaska. Someone send me a Last Frontier t-shirt!