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Fresh fish is taken off Spanish menus....


PauloR
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The2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Published: 14 December 2006

Britons who go to Spain expecting to enjoy an essential ingredient of the famous Mediterranean diet will be disappointed: fresh fish is off the menu.

Freshly caught sardines and hake will no longer be dish of the day. Diners will have to make do with the frozen variety instead.

A government decree introduced this week has forced all restaurants to freeze fish and shellfish for up to 24 hours to try to combat a worm-like parasite called anisakis, which can harm humans.

...

Ricardo Sanz, chef at the sushi restaurant Kabuki in Madrid, said: "The problem lies with fish from the North Atlantic, not mainly with fish from the Mediterranean. This will end much of modern cooking."

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2073028.ece

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The2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Published: 14 December 2006

...... fresh fish is off the menu.

......

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2073028.ece

Well, that's not exactly the case. The law specifies that the for frozen fish only applies to dishes where the fish is presented raw or lightly cooked: think of sushi, cebiches, boquerones en vinagre.

The industry, however, is reacting promptly. Just this week I read articles about a salmuera --brine-- which kills anisakis and also about a way of getting rid of them by putting the fish into high pressures. Despite of how bad it sounds, the high pressure method seems to be far less intrusive than freezing. Details on the latter, in Spanish, at:

ABC on anisakis

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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This is very interesting and unusual that a European country actually has gone beyond American regulations. The FDA recommends that fish and shellfish not be eaten raw unless they have been previously frozen, but I can't find anything on their or a related website indicating that this is a requirement. If this takes hold in Spain, I'm sure that it will only be a matter of time for it to take place in the US.

Here is a little more information on Anisakiasis.

This gives me pause to wonder if it wasn't actually this that I and a number of other fellow diners/travelers suffered from after lunch at a Spanish restaurant at which part of the meal consisted of a dish prepared with raw shrimp. It was a possibility that I previously hadn't considered. The symptoms were consistent with what is described in the link I provided above.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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At least according to this New York Times article, it is illegal to serve sushi (or raw fish in general) in the US that has not been previously frozen. I've never actually seen the regulation, can't find it in any quick searches and am not exactly sure how it works. According to the article, though, the FDA leaves enforcement to the states.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I remember that article. I am sure that you are correct, but I was surprised when wading through the fda website all I could find were recommendations and not regulations. Of course, I did not go through the site with a fine tooth comb.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Yes, that article also came to my mind when I read about this regulation.

Doc, I think that anisakis doesn't affect shrimp and other shellfish. Not totally sure about it.

The other day, while I was cleaning and cutting some cod fish to prepare bacalhau à bras, I found one anisakis worm in it. So, I cut a good portion of fish around it and continued pretending nothing happened. So far, so good. This was the second time around that I find anisakis in cod fish. The previous time, the fish was completely taken by these worms and I discarded the whole thing. Good thing that they're relatively easy to detect!

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Yes, that article also came to my mind when I read about this regulation.

Doc, I think that anisakis doesn't affect shrimp and other shellfish. Not totally sure about it.

The other day, while I was cleaning and cutting some cod fish to prepare bacalhau à bras, I found one anisakis worm in it.  So, I cut a good portion of fish around it and continued pretending nothing happened. So far, so good. This was the second time around that I find anisakis in cod fish. The previous time, the fish was completely taken by these worms and I discarded the whole thing. Good thing that they're relatively easy to detect!

Actually shrimp and other crustaceans are part of their lifecycle as can be seen in the link I provided above. The shrimp are ingested by larger fish which are in turn ingested by other fish. Whether that part of the lifecycle is problematic to humans is another question. I recall that the raw shrimp that we had was not a typical species, but a very small one cut up in a tartare like preparation. Mind you, I am not saying that that was indeed the source, but the possibility is intriguing.

Out of curiosity is there any sense of this being a significant problem in Spain. The potential is certainly large, but what is the reality?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Well, certainly there's been a lot of indignation coming out from respected chefs all over the country: Subijana, Arzak, Ricardo Sanz, to name a few. Honestly, I would say that there's being some overreaction going around. First of all, it'd would affect a few preparations and then there's the question of how much fresh fish actually arrives to the kitchens.

Months ago, I visited a good restaurant which announced in the menu the preparations where fish had been frozen to prevent anisakis. I don't remember its name right now, but perhaps was one of Jesús Santos'.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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If it is true that all fish to be served raw or nearly raw in the US must be frozen first then I don't think that it really is that big of a deal for most fish at least as far as the ultimate quality is concerned although it helps if it has been blast frozen. Unfortunately this likely not the case for all fish. One big difference between a lot of the fish served in restaurants in the US vs finer restaurants in Spain is that the distribution of fresh seafood in the US is rarely directly from the fisherman. In most situations it is received from distributors and comes from boats that freeze the fish directly on board. In Spain many of the finest seafood restaurants serve their fish from the local daily catch. I must say that I have never had sardines as good as I have had them in Spain. Another problem for the Spanish restaurants is the additional cost for them of having the fish be frozen in such a way that quality is minimally effected. What will happen to a restaurant like Rafa's in Roses?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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IMHO, to restaurants like Rafa's, nothing will happen. He grills all --virtually all-- his fish and that, as I've been trying to express from the beginning, it's outside the scope of the law. According to my interpretation of the law, of course. Hey, I sounded like a lawyer there! :raz:

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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El Mundo had an interesting article in "Cronica" on Dec. 10. It of course detailed the outraged reaction of chefs and did a taste test to see what the effects of freezing are on different kinds of seafood: marinated shrimp, tuna tartare, lubina ceviche, merluza and bacalao. Lower fat, delicate white fish were the clear losers.

The chef of Kabuki, Ricardo Sanz, is quoted as saying that most of the fish affected with parasites come from the North Atlantic and to a lesser degree from the Mediterranean, and that the that the government is going overboard in treating all marine products equally.

In Japan, almost all tuna comes frozen.

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El Mundo had an interesting article in "Cronica" on Dec. 10. It of course detailed the outraged reaction of chefs and did a taste test to see what the effects of freezing are on different kinds of seafood: marinated shrimp, tuna tartare, lubina ceviche, merluza and bacalao. Lower fat, delicate white fish were the clear losers.

This is the link to the article (in Spanish): Juan Manuel Bellver on anisakis and tasting frozen vs fresh fish

In Japan, almost all tuna comes frozen.

Quite logic, having into account where the tuna is fished and where it's consumed. Which was the point I was trying to make when I questioned how much fresh fish arrives to the kitchens: only coastal species of the neighbor area have the chance to arrive fresh to the restaurants.

Edited by pedro (log)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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I'd argue that it's the other way around, Víctor: water increases its volume when it becomes a solid --ice-- much more than fat, thus water is more likely to break up cellular structures --not molecular-- when it becomes ice upon freezing.

Albeit, college is well in the past and I could be wrong...

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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We went through this in Ontario, Canada in 2004/2005. There was enough of a stink that the government backed down and freezing is not a requirement. (They faced a lot of pressure due to poor implementation - somehow they missed talking to anyone who had ever eaten a fish ...)

http://www.tass.on.ca/frozen.html

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/stor...09_2?hub=Canada

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Pedro: Sorry for the slip-up - I meant 'cellular', of course. Let's see if I can make myself understood: yes, of course, water expands when it becomes ice, and then it breaks up fat cells (turning them to mush) much more quickly than it breaks up muscle and fiber cells. So anything fat (from foie gras to tuna) will last a lot less in the freezer than anything lean (from green peas to sole). See the Canadian Government's instructions on the length of time one should keep fish in the freezer: "Poisson maigre : 6 mois; poisson moyennement gras : 4 mois; poisson gras : 2 mois." Translation: "Lean fish: 6 months; mid-fatty fish, 4 months; fatty fish, 2 months."

Edited by vserna (log)

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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I see your point, Víctor, though for some reason it doesn't click for me. Frankly, cell behavior under freezing is not a field I'm versed in. My somehow simplistic reasoning was that more water = more ice = more cells broken = more leakage upon defrosting of water and the soluble elements contained in it = less flavor and bad texture. But again, I don't have any evidence to bring to the table to support this hypothesis.

Btw, the confusion cellular/molecular comes straight from the article in Crónica. Also, in the article, one taster affirms that white fish is the one that suffers the most from freezing while another slips up about cells and molecules when talking about tuna.

And, if you excuse my off topicness for a second, felices fiestas to everyone!

Edited by pedro (log)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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While it is truly unfortunate that it has come to this in Spain, one must realize that not all freezing techniques are equal or result in equally good results. A blast freezer does a much better job of preserving the texture of fish than simply tossing it into a regular freezer. How the fish is wrapped also makes a difference. Since they are not used to it, it mught take the Spanish chefs a little while to find a level they are comfortable with, but I suspect that if they ultimately have to they will learn quickly.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 2 weeks later...
Pedro: Sorry for the slip-up - I meant 'cellular', of course. Let's see if I can make myself understood: yes, of course, water expands when it becomes ice, and then it breaks up fat cells (turning them to mush) much more quickly than it breaks up muscle and fiber cells. So anything fat (from foie gras to tuna) will last a lot less in the freezer than anything lean (from green peas to sole). See the Canadian Government's instructions on the length of time one should keep fish in the freezer: "Poisson maigre : 6 mois; poisson moyennement gras : 4 mois; poisson gras : 2 mois." Translation: "Lean fish: 6 months; mid-fatty fish, 4 months; fatty fish, 2 months."

IMO it depends partly how the freezing is done. Were they in the Spanish test using blast freezers? If not, the test was pretty useless and as a side note, freezing in a normal freezer in a restaurant environment is not legal throughout the EU, but it is as I understand legal in Spain. The impact on quality is astonishing (compared to normal freezers).

As for foie gras, it is getting increasingly popular and the foie gras producers are getting increasingly more successfull with flash frozen foie gras. For example, Rougie's flash frozen foie gras is used by such eminent restaurants as the Fat Duck and Michel Guerard to name a few. Are they as good as the best day-old foie gras from the top producers? I think not. By the way, the best before dates for those frozen foie gras lobes or slices are much longer than you indicate for fat fish.

Edited by degusto (log)

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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  • 2 months later...
Is there anyone who can update this situation?

After a few months living with this regulation I haven't find any different in the main seafood restaurants. Other thing can be in the low end bars serving boquerones en vinagre (marinated anchoives) and cheap japanese restaurants.

I was last weekend dining in La Sirena, a superb seafood restaurant in Petrer, near Alicante, and asked Mari Carmen Vélez, the chef, about the subject. She's an expert as she was a fishmonger before being a cook and still has their own fishing boat and stall in the local market. As per her comments none is freezing their fish but are very cautious when cleaning the pieces.

Other cook told me that everyone has a few pieces in the freezer just in case an inspector arrives, but I have been to Ca Sento, Las Rejas, El Bohio, FM... in the last two months and in none of them I've been served a frozen fish.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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  • 1 month later...

Given that yesterday was a "puente" or bridge day for the May 1 holiday, at least a few of the better tapas bars in Valencia were unable to serve most seafood items because of the inavailabilty of fresh seafood secondary to the holiday. Seafood including Denia prawns were served today at El Poblet. I asked the waitress there if the fisherman in Denia fished today. She answered that she didn't know.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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There are some top-notch restaurants like Combarro or Goizeko Wellington in Madrid advising that they're serving frozen fish on the risky (ie rarely cooked) dishes like marinated fishes and tartares. On the other preparations seafood is being served as fresh as always.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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