No Basa in Mi Casa
When I was coming up, there were only a few fish that I knew well: catfish, salmon and tuna.
It’s a shame to say, but it took me years to recognize that tuna wasn’t just for sandwiches and salad. Obviously my experience has grown since then, especially since I don’t eat meat as much as I used to. Several years ago, I noticed a heavy influx of “new to me” fish that hit grocery stores, namely swai and basa (2 types of Vietnamese catfish). The cheap prices made it popular to a lot of folks yet I grew skeptical for the same reason. My natural curiosity led me to dig a little deeper, and questions like “Why can’t I buy this fresh?” and “Why are we importing fish from Vietnam and China anyway?” came to mind. The queries fueled my quest to know as much as I possibly could. To put it nicely: this is some bull…
The United States were introduced to basa fish in 1994 after the trade embargo with Vietnam was lifted. Most of the basa and swai available at the markets come from the Mekong River, located in Vietnam. The Mekong has a well-known reputation as one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Large manufacturers planted along this river frequently dump extremely toxic and dangerous chemicals and industrial waste directly into it. According to the short film “Dirty Waters, Dangerous Fish,” the industrial waste dumped yearly in this river is to the tune of 220,000 tons. Several studies have discovered fish contaminated with heavy metals, banned antibiotics, salmonella, veterinarian drugs and other carcinogens.
Be especially aware when buying packaged seafood like fish sticks, imitation crab and yes, even pet food. If basa is in the ingredients, don’t do it. Listen, I don’t want to scare you, but I am here to be honest. It is a LOT deeper than this, so it would behoove you to further research this on your own.
Times are tough, and money may be a bit scarce, but NOTHING is more important than the health of me and my family; what about you?
Here’s a recent article on some of the fish coming from China and the Vietnam to provide more background, so you can make up your own mind.
More About the Chef:
Chef Cordell passionately pursues educating others how to build healthy cooking and eating habits for life via cooking classes, consulting (personal, corporate, restaurant), public speaking and more. Through his work, he looks to offer community based solutions for education of, and access to, healthier food solutions.