Seafood Fraud

I recently read this article on Seriouseats about Seafood fraud and I think it an important issue that more people should be aware of.

So here is my attempt at a TL:DR:

Nonprofit conservation group Oceana recently published its latest Seafood Fraud Study. Highlights from the study include:

  • 1/5 of more than 25k samples of tested worldwide were mislabeled
  • Seafood mislabeling found throughout the seafood supply chain
  • Cheaper species sold as more expensive ones

From previous Ocean studies:

This percentage rises dramatically when it comes to restaurants serving expensive species of fish—in past Oceana studies in this country, restaurant red snapper and certain tuna in sushi restaurants were found to be bogus more than 90% of the time, while farmed salmon was passed off as pricier “wild-caught” two-thirds of the time.

NYC Seafood fraud report


Everywhere seafood is tested, fraud has been found:

  • Boston (48 percent mislabeled),
  • Los Angeles (55 percent mislabeled)
  • Miami (31 percent mislabeled)

In 2012, Oceana also investigated seafood mislabeling in the New York City area as part of its Campaign to Stop Seafood Fraud. Despite frequent reporting on the issue for more than 20 years, Oceana found that 39 percent of the 142 seafood samples collected and DNA tested from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues were mislabeled, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines

Ease of seafood fraud primarily due to the following reasons:

  • Lack of transparency and complicated supply chain
  • Consumer does not have the experience/knowledge to identify mislabeled seafood making it easy for dishonest restaurateurs and retailers to take advantage of them. (eg. pulling the old bait and switch)

Most of the blame has long been placed on the industry’s opaque supply chain, with its numerous middlemen and widespread opportunity to relabel boxes, but recent testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows that about 85% of seafood is properly labeled when it reaches the last consumer-facing point of sale, suggesting that most fraud is perpetrated by restaurants and retailers. This can be as simple as putting grouper (always wild-caught and pricey) on the menu, but serving cheap farmed tilapia instead.

Aquaculture is the controlled farming of seafood. At the moment it is currently plagued by a  myriad of problems largely due to lack of regulations. (eg. uncontrolled use of pesticides, drugs and slave labour). Current popular methods (eg. ocean net pens) are not only harmful for the environment but also unsustainable. However the state of Aquaculture is slowly improving with the emergence of more environmentally friendly farming methods and regulatory bodies.

Sustainability is another problem the Seafood industry has to deal with. Popular species (eg. Salmon, bluefin tuna) are being over-fished leading. Due to dwindling supply, the inability to meet consumer demand encourages seafood fraud. In response,  chefs have started a ground-up movement of promoting under-utilized and/or invasive species. However bigger corporations need to participate to have a significant impact.

Corporate players can have an even bigger effect. McDonald’s, famously obsessed with reliability and consistency of ingredient supply, quietly swapped dwindling cod for wild Alaskan pollock in its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, in perhaps the biggest sea change of its type. While the Golden Arches may not be synonymous with sustainability, the switch has been heralded by advocates: Pacific pollock is one of the most thriving fisheries* in the world, if not the most, under the certification of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the foremost arbiter of wild fisheries. The Filet-O-Fish wrapper now carries the MSC fish-with-a-checkmark logo, the most desirable consumer indication of wild seafood provenance.

US Legislative action to combat Seafood fraud

  •  FDA’s new project, Seafood Compliance and Labeling Enforcement (SCALE) = stricter inspections of foreign seafood, and DNA testing lab to authenticate species
  • NFI’s (major seafood industry trade group) Better Seafood Board (BSB) – required to join BSB to be NFI member. requires taking a pledge not to sell any seafood that is underweight, bears the wrong species name, or suggests an erroneous place of origin.



I do not know when did eating become such a chore. Food is no longer nourishing or enjoyable.

I used to look forward to reunion dinners, steamboats, sushi buffets and barbecues. Now, I go out of my way to avoid them. I am unable to eat in front of people who I do not know intimately. I’m like a food hermit. To me, eating is a solitary task that is to be carried out in total privacy.

I dread being asked for out for events, especially those that involve food. Because I know that if I accept the invitation, it will be constantly on mind. And as the date draws near, I will get increasingly anxious and start lapsing into my coping mechanisms – exercising and restricting.

I guess that’s why I have lost so many friends. Eating together connects people. Sitting down together for a meal, sharing food and swapping stories, helps people bond and provides a brief respite from the hectic pace of modern life. It’s like a time-out for every one to catch up on each others’ lives.

Some people say this is stupid. That I’m just not “tough” enough,   I should snap out of it and be normal. I wish I could. I’m sick of making up excuses for not joining my colleagues for lunch, turning down dinners and social events.


In most cultures, it is customary for new mothers to follow a set of confinement practices during the month after child birth. The main purpose of these practices is to ensure that both the mother and child recover fully from the trial of pregnancy, labour and childbirth. This confinement period is usually characterized by loads of rest, good food and “home quarantine”.

The days and weeks following childbirth – the postnatal period – is a critical phase in the lives of mothers and newborn babies. Major changes occur during this period which determine the well-being of mothers and newborns.

WHO recommendations on Postnatal care of the mother and newborn

From a practical point of view, it does make sense. During the six weeks following the birth, both the mother and child are undergoing major physiological changes to adapt to the new conditions and reach homeostasis.

The postpartum period has been termed the “fourth stage of labor”, and has three distinct but continuous phases.

The initial or acute period involves the first 6–12 hours postpartum. This is a time of rapid change with a potential for immediate crises such as postpartum hemorrhage, uterine inversion, amniotic fluid embolism, and eclampsia.

The second phase is the subacute postpartum period, which lasts 2–6 weeks. During this phase, the body is undergoing major changes in terms of hemodynamics, genitourinary recovery, metabolism, and emotional status. Nonetheless, the changes are less rapid than in the acute postpartum phase and the patient is generally capable of self-identifying problems. These may run the gamut from ordinary concerns about perineal discomfort to peripartum cardiomyopathy or severe postpartum depression.

The third phase is the delayed postpartum period, which can last up to 6 months (1). Changes during this phase are extremely gradual, and pathology is rare.

This is the time of restoration of muscle tone and connective tissue to the prepregnant state. Although change is subtle during this phase, it behooves caregivers to remember that a womanʼs body is nonetheless not fully restored to prepregnant physiology until about 6 months postdelivery.

In Western cultures, this is commonly referred to as “lying in”. However the practice has slowly died off due to changing expectations of new mothers.

The U.S. seems only to understand pregnancy as a distinct and fragile state. For the expectant, we issue reams of proscriptions—more than can reasonably be followed. We tell them what to eat and what not to eat. We ask that they visit the doctor regularly and that they not do any strenuous activity. We give them our seats on the bus. Finally, once they’ve actually undergone the physical trauma of it, their bodies thoroughly depleted, we beckon them most immediately to rejoin the rest of us. One New York mother summed up her recent postpartum experience this way: “You’re not hemorrhaging? OK, peace, see you later.”

The non-practice of confinement among the western societies has raised some debate within the Asian community. For example, the Duchess of Cambridge being seen in public with her newborn a day after the birth was a major talking point in Taiwan and China.

Although non-Western cultures have very differentiated confinement practices, there are some similarities. The emphasis on the healing properties of food, rest and maintaining the “hot-cold” (yin and yang) balance of the body is a recurrent trend in these practices.

One such belief is the necessity of maintaining a ‘hot-cold balance’ within the body and with the environment after the birth of a baby. Hot-cold conceptsof healthcare (also called humoral theories) are centuries old in the traditional cultures of Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Most non-western cultures advocate the avoidance of all things cold – air conditioning, ice, showers. For the Chinese, this means a month of no showering, washing of hair, no going outdoors to avoid the wind and a diet rich in “hot” foods. “Hot” foods supposedly contain inner heat and will help with blood circulation and promote lactation. On the other hand “cold” foods, foods that physically cold or grow in cold places, are off the menu.

One surprising fact is that most new mothers in Asian countries still follow these practices. The confinement industry is doing brisk business, with confinement centers/maternity hotels charging up to $4,500 to $19,000 per month and confinement ladies commanding a salary between $1,500 to $2,000. Confinement centers have also sprung up across the states due to the demand and increasing migrant population.

Further reading:

Why Won’t This New Mom Wash Her Hair?
The fascinating postpartum customs of women from around the world.


Is sustainability a malleable concept? I know that we should aim to cultivate sustainable habits and processes, but I also feel that nothing is sustainable forever as our goals, priorities and life circumstances change. And that is ok. It is ok for the systems to fail once in a while and we need to accept it as a by-product of growth.


Haven’t been writing lately. Can’t think of anything to write about. Or at least have enough material for a proper post. This is a brain dump.



Is this something inherent in you, something that grows organically within you and you slowly realize? Or is it bestowed upon you by others?


What is the difference between self-esteem and self-worth? From looking at the definitions, it seems that esteem is determined by your actions and how you and others perceive them. It’s feelings and perceptions, ego and humility.

Whereas, self-worth refers to how valuable you are. But the question is to whom? How do you quantify a person’s value? Is this value based on the appraisal of others or your own?


Is being average a bad thing? We are always told to strive to be better than average, that a mediocre life is not worth the effort.

Some might say that in our efforts to escape the shackles of a “normal” life, we become too fixated on the goal and forget to enjoy the process. What’s the point of being successful if there’s no one to share it with. Why try so hard to be successful when we’re all going to die anyway. Why not settle for being average and take things easy? Is this just justification for not wanting to leave our comfort zone or sage advice?

Who decides what is average anyway? Statisticians? Average of what? Your entire country? Group of friends? Would you want to know if you are above or below average? What would you do with that knowledge?

To me, it’s not about wanting to be average, or trying to be something more than a punctuation in the annals of history. Rather, it is that I want to leave this world knowing that at least I tried. That I have done myself right, and have not short-changed myself. Ultimately, only you will know how meaningful your life was, only you will know the true effort it took to forge it. I don’t think anyone is living an average life. Every one of us is experiencing our own unique reality.





do insects have feelings?

Do insects have feelings?

This is a question I have been obsessed with the last couple of days. I was out walking the other day when I came across an overturned Carpenter Bee struggling to upright itself. I used the tip of my umbrella to flip it upright and continued on with my walk. But I begin wondering, did the bee feel grateful or irritated that I poked it with my brolly? Was it panicking when it stuck on his back? What was going on in its mind as when it felt the tip of my umbrella press up against him?

So I went a-googling.

The first search result was this – Do Insects have emotions and empathy?

The article defines emotions as a learned response that our brain develops when we experience stimulation that deviates from the norm. And emotions have an affect on our behavior (eg. feeling embarrassed or excited), perception (eg. is this dangerous or safe?)  and resulting action (eg. fight or flight).  With this definition, it then goes on to explore a few experiments involving insects.

The first study was on how honeybees react after being thrown into a vortex for a minute and then presented two different tasting chemicals – Octanone which is sweet tasting and hexanol which tasted bitter.

Bees that had been shaken became pessimistic, glass half-empty characters that were more likely to react to the nasty smell in the mixtures and recoil as opposed to being attracted to the yummy smell — a result of presumably being pretty irritated. Unshaken bees on the other hand remained their more optimistic, glass half-full selves and were more likely to see the mixtures as half-appetizing, as opposed to half-disgusting like their bad-tempered counterparts did. Moreover, there were emotionally relevant changes in neurotransmitter levels in the shaken up bees, like serotonin and dopamine.

The second study was about how fruit flies react to a simulated predator attack. And the final study was on emphatic woodlice.  It appears that “calm woodlice reduced their more excited neighbors causing them to also become calm.” Which is a very human thing isn’t it? Like if there’s a fire and one person freaks out, everyone else will tend to freak out. We humans tend to follow the most vocal reaction and hence we are often advised to try and remain calm during an emergency.

The next search result that I felt was interesting is – Do insects feel pain by Relax I am an Entomologist

The author raised many interesting questions that I’m still trying to work out on my own.

But nociception is not pain. The current definition of pain requires an emotional response. Humans can feel pain without any physical stimulus and are capable of emotions associated with pain; like suffering and terror. Are insects capable of conscious or unconscious experience of emotion? Is consciousness required for emotions? This is where it gets controversial; because how do you quantify if an insect is experiencing an emotion or if insects are conscious? I usually tell people that insects are hardwired with predetermined behavioral responses to external stimuli, but this is a simplification.

So do insect have emotions and feelings?

Singapore – 15 random facts

Since the 9th of August is Singapore national day, here are some rando facts.


  1. If Massachusetts Were A Country, Its Students Would Rank 2nd only to top-ranked Singapore in global measures of science competency.
  2. Singapore is home to the world’s first vertical commercial farm.
  3. Singapore became an economic success despite having no natural resources and a divided population.
  4. Singapore’s name comes from ‘Singa Pura’ which means Lion City in Sanskrit. According to the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals), a Sumatran prince called Sang Nila Utama landed on Temasek (Singapore’s old name) and saw a Lion which is called ‘Singa’ in Malay. Thus he gave the island a new name, ‘Singapura’.
  5. Singapore had a Koro Epidemic in 1976

    A koro epidemic struck Singapore in October 1967 for about ten days. Newspapers initially reported that some people developed koro after eating the meat of pigs inoculated with a vaccine for swine influenza. Rumours relating eating pork and koro spread after a further report of an inoculated pig dying from penile retraction. The cases reported amounted to 97 in a single hospital unit within one day, at five days after the original news report. Government and medical officials alleviated the outbreak only by public announcements over television and in the newspapers.

  6. Chewing gum is banned in Singapore, unless for medical reasons.
  7. The Merlion is the national personification of Singapore.
  8. Singapore is the only country with a hybrid as the national flower
  9. Singapore is not in China.
  10. No, Singapore is not a part of Malaysia.
  11. Suicide is illegal in Singapore. Those who attempt suicide can be imprisoned for up to a year.
  12. The National Trades Union Congress is also involved in several businesses such as  supermarkets and insurance.
  13. Singapore hosted F1’s first ever night race in 2008
  14. Singapore is in the wrong timezone.
  15. Singapore has the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations, a report in 2015, by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) revealed.