Fish Mislabeling and Kosher Seafood
Kosher describes food, including seafood, prepared in accordance with the set of Jewish dietary laws known as Kashrut. Kashrut describes what fish can and cannot be eaten by those who follow a kosher diet. Kashrut does not require rabbis to "bless" fish to make it kosher, unlike the common misconception. In fact, fish can be kosher without a rabbi or priest ever laying eyes on the fish. The primary reason a rabbi is called to certify a fish is kosher is because the rabbi can look for the characteristics of kosher fish described in the Kashrut. The rabbi must examine the fish to make sure the fish has fins and scales and determine the type of scales on the fish (of the four types of scales, only clenoid and cycloid scales are proper). Essentially, the rabbi is determining if the fish is, in fact, among the kosher species of fish.
Unlike the neighborhood seafood market of generations past, today' fish come from grocery store displays selling skinless fillets, processed foods containing fish, and other symbols of modern convenience. Concurrently, many media reports, industry investigations, and FDA inspections over the last decade have revealed a startling increase in fraudulent substitution of one species of fish for another being sold at retail. Although this fraud can occur anywhere in the chain from the fishing boat all the way to your local restaurant's kitchen, the result is the same; a person trying to eat a kosher diet by purchasing a kosher species of fish may be deceived via substitution with a non-kosher fish species. Currently, the most common method to prevent this is to purchase from kosher suppliers. However, because of the added cost of keeping the skin and fins on a fish until a rabbi can examine each fish, either kosher products are much more expensive or are unavailable. Applied Food Technologies can provide an alternative solution.