Miriam reports on what looks like a frozen fish scandal in Israel, and the government reacts.
What are STTPs. Are they good or bad for you and your fish? China’s using them to plump up frozen fish, and the local distributors and stores are benefitting from selling you extra frozen water, not fish. This was captured on my post on chemically-treated frozen fish imported from China, which stirred up some heat in Israel’s English-speaking community. People are expressing their disgust over being cheated of fish and treated to phosphates. Following comments on a popular food list, a spokesperson from the Israeli Ministry of Health’s office responded to the suspicions that these phosphates might be causing us harm. Read the letter below. What do you think?
…there are some misconceptions being presented on this subject. STPP is a legal food additive not only in Israel but in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe. It is not only added to fresh fish, chicken, and beef to help retain water or marinade, it is used as a stabilizer in products such as deli meats and hot dogs. There have never been any research studies that prove that phosphates are damaging to your health. If one is on renal dialysis, the amount of phosphates eaten has to be monitored. Even on the second episode of Kolbotek, they admitted that there is no health risk to eating the regulated level of phosphates in food.
Does being “legal” equal “safe to eat”? These are two separate issues. It can be confusing to the health-conscious consumer. But let’s look at some recent history. Some food colorings were legal before being taken off the FDA’s list. One food additive was banned, then returned to legal status because the public demanded it: saccharine. Crops were legally sprayed with DDT for years.
And all you need to do is look at our apples, still bearing the dried white traces of pesticides, to know you have to wash each one with soap before it’s really safe to eat.
Health-conscious eaters avoid artificial sweeteners, flavorings, and colorings. That means no deli meats, hot dogs, and processed meat of the kind mentioned by the Health Ministry’s spokesperson. Still, unless we have access to all-organic food, which most of don’t, we consume unknown quantities of chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics willy-nilly, every day. We only hope that the resilient human body withstands them.
Once aware that frozen Chinese fish contains a chemical so strong that workers handling it must wear full-body protection – why should we choose to eat that fish? The spokesperson says that no research studies prove STTP to be toxic, but neither does s/he say that studies have been conducted proving it safe, or without long-term effects.
Glazing is a worldwide process used to protect fish from being damaged when packaged and shipped. Israeli law permits up to 20% water as glazing on a product, and it must be labelled as such. All fish entering Israel with glazing is checked by a recognized laboratory to make sure they do not go over the legal limit.
Glazing can be done at home, safely. Just pack your fish in fresh water and freeze it so. What justifies using phosphates for glazing? We venture to repeat that phosphates make the flesh absorb water so the package weighs more. And why would the independent lab used by Kolbotek in its exposé report incredibly high levels of water and ice in some of those packages? A reputable lab has to be able to stand behind its reports.
All fish entering Israel is checked for presence and level of phosphates. The label is also examined to make sure that it is labeled appropriately.
Again, we are sorry to contradict. Examining label after label on frozen fish packages, I’ve found “imported from China” on many of them, but not one read “processed” or “contains phosphates.” We are still being cheated of an informed choice.
The spokesperson concluded:
If, as one writer described, a product was not to your expectations … or you suspect that a product is mislabeled, you should file a complaint with your local branch of Misrad HaBriut (Health Ministry). It will be evaluated. Save the packaging so that the product can be traced.
Myself, I no longer buy imported Chinese fish. I hope that little by little, the public, likewise voting with its wallet, will persuade Neto, the main importer, to give us fish with no phosphates.