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Bluefin tuna fraud: how to differentiate the authentic wild bluefin tuna from almadraba

Do you know what red tuna are tinted with beet juice? And that places where this variety of fish sells proliferate when it really isn't? To avoid confusion, we help you differentiate the true wild bluefin tuna from almadraba from the one that is not.

Tuna sirloin from the Lighthouse of Cádiz © Julio González / El Faro de Cádiz

Let's recognize it. Most of us we are not experts in tuna. We like it, yes. But we are probably many who have ever cheated us. On occasion we have asked bluefin tuna in a restaurant and yet, we have taken some other variety without knowing it, paying a price that was not theirs.

Eye, is no exception: for the vast majority of diners it is almost impossible to differentiate a wild bluefin tuna from almadraba from the one that is not. Even more when they go tuned. That is, when copies of other varieties such as yellowfin he tint beet juice to extol its reddish color; or even injected prohibited vegetable additives They help to enliven the coloration. Certainty there already becomes directly impossible.

Tuna sirloin with pork rinds, cream of potatoes, colored butter and sweet and sour sauce from El Campero © Mesa12

We are not the only ones to doubt. The European Union He informed the Spanish authorities a little over a year ago that the trap was spreading too much. In fact, in recent months Brussels has issued two health alerts for poisonings detected, all of a mild nature. Their warnings have obtained little response from the administration, so at the end of September Europe insisted, demanding again that Spain implements measures to end tuna fraud.

He also warned that he would carry out an inspection in October "to evaluate the effectiveness of the controls in force, as well as the corrective and coercive measures adopted." Equally, Facua He has asked for clarification of the protocol that is applied to avoid new cases of poisoning.

The Lighthouse of Cádiz © Julio González / The Lighthouse of Cádiz

While they check it, we wanted to ask some of the people who know more about this variety of tuna to help - as far as possible - that the next time we sit at the table they give us cat for a hare.

It will not be easy: "Differentiating them on a plate is very complicated "assures Marta Crespo, manager of the Organization of Fish Producers of Almadraba (OPP) that combines the traps of Tarifa, Zahara de los Atunes and Conil de la Frontera.

His words are repeated both in the fishing and gastronomic sectors, leaving little room for maneuver to the final consumer. "Distinguish in a slice of 20 grams the species of tuna you are eating it's almost impossible", Add Andres Jordan, responsible for the company Gadira, which acquires and distributes some 300 tons of wild bluefin tuna from almadraba per year.

However, there are some keys that help to know if what they have served us is, really, is that wild bluefin tuna that they sell us in the menu. A dish that, surely, has not come cheap. The main issues we have within our reach are:

1. Traceability. It is the only option to verify with total certainty that they have served us wild bluefin tuna from almadraba. If the consumer requests it, any restaurant must show the tuna label they have served. A piece of paper that includes the commercial name, the scientific name, the area in which the specimen has been captured, its weight, the production method, the barcode and the QR.

Everything helps identify and know the exact origin of the product you are eating. And what happens if they don't teach us the label? For Andrés Jordán, the thing is clear: "If I had a restaurant, I always eI would point out the label to show that I do it well. "You also have to be attentive to labeling on large surfaces, because the trade name can say one thing and the scientist another. You always have to read the fine print.

Correct label of bluefin tuna from Almadraba © Nacho Sánchez

2. The color. When a tuna has a very intense and completely uniform red hue, is Not very reliable. In that case, it is an unnatural color, which indicates that the product has been handled. Almadraba wild red tuna has tonal differences naturally.

An example: the internal area of ​​the loin is redder and the outer part has a more pink. The parts closest to the spine are always redder and as it gets closer to the skin it is more pink due to increased fat infiltration. So if the color is too perfect, bad matter.

We help you differentiate the true wild bluefin tuna from Almadraba from the one that is not © iStock

3. Blood or beet juice? Those who know fish say that the best way to detect if they deceive us when selling tuna is by direct purchase. That is, in the market. If when you touch the tuna meat you stain your hands red, it is not wild tuna. That liquid can make you think it's blood ... but no, It is beet juice.

True tuna does not release that liquid and, when touched, what it does is leave your hands impregnated with fat, with the typical oily texture. Of course, nothing would happen when eating it. "When taking tuna injected with beet juice, generally nothing serious will happen to you. Of course, it is an absolute deception to the client, it is a full-fledged scam," said Francisco Rodríguez, head of the firm Herpac, which has been specialized in canned, salted and smoked tuna for more than three decades.

4. Size does matter. The back of a wild tuna red tuna has an average size of 20 kilos, while that of tuna yellowfinround the eight kilos. And while the bellies of these are like small ventrescas, those of bluefin tuna are around seven kilos. The almadrabas return to the sea any specimen that weighs less than 70 kilos, so the one that arrives at the markets has a considerable size (and crossing with him in the sea should be very scary).

5. The price. High demand has made the price of true bluefin tuna high, so you have to distrust any bargain. So, if we find a bluefin tuna at 13 euros a kilo in the market, we can be sure that it's not bluefin tuna. East practically always exceeds 25 euros a kilo, Even more according to the season. The rule also applies to restoration: when we find a letter with a red tuna steak too cheap (less than 15 euros, for example) we must remember that nobody gives hard pesetas.

6. The time of the year. The wild bluefin tuna season of Almadraba is around the months of April, May and June. It is the best time to drink it fresh. But beware, that there is this variety the rest of the year should not make us distrust: most copies freeze at minus 60 degrees, a method that keeps them in perfect organoleptic conditions for up to four years. Sometimes it has a better state than fresh: tuna freezes newcomer to port, while a fresh one can take three days - for example - to arrive at a restaurant in Madrid.

If you paint your hands red in the market ... bad business © Alamy


Luckily, more and more bluefin tuna stays in Spain. Virtually half of the catches that the Organization of Fish Producers of Almadraba In 2017, it was used for national consumption. And, although there are already many restaurants that choose to offer this product to their customers "because it is a category symbol", as Marta Crespo emphasizes, we recommend a few of those that you can trust one hundred percent when ordering wild bluefin tuna from almadraba.

Cádiz provinceOf course, it is the starting point to talk about the binomial between restaurants and tuna. Y El Campero, in Barbate, is its biggest temple. It has long waiting lists and it is practically impossible to find a place in the summer months, unless it is booked well in advance.

Its tasting menu has seven bites of different parts of tuna, In addition to dessert. However, his letter also includes many other delicacies with this fish. "It is a magical product, which when it reaches our shores makes it plethoric, at its best", underlines Julio Vázquez, head chef of the establishment, who says that" no two tunas are the same because it is a wild product. "

Vázquez says that it is a difficult product to work for because of its great diversity of textures, parts and flavors, but also that it is something unique and "special". Your recommendation is to take tuna onions, which is the most classic proposal of Barbate and is rooted in the local gastronomic culture.

From there, highlights the grilled morrillo ("a noble part with high gastronomic value") that with hardly any salt, oil and a quick step on the plate "is pure magic". In addition, it proposes to taste the low temperature countermormon roasted with potatoes or a sea and mountain dish based on tuna sirloin with pork rinds, cream of potatoes, colored butter and sweet and sour sauce.

Julio Vázquez of El Campero © Mesa12

Very close to Barbate, the Antonio restaurant, in Zahara de los Atunes, also carries bluefin tuna by flag: its rich menu has about twenty dishes based on this wonderful product.

Also in the Zahareño paradise, the Juanito Restaurant is another in which you must have total confidence.

And already in Cádiz capital, it is The Lighthouse of Cádiz which always illuminates the best bites of bluefin tuna. "This product represents sustainability for us, our way of understanding our coast, our root," explains the chef of the restaurant, Mario Jimenez. The chef emphasizes how tuna is a great product to be consumed as it is consumed, whether stewed, in sashimi or raw, "which in many occasions is the best thing to appreciate its flavor one hundred percent."

One of his best ideas has been the Tuna tacos marinated with roasted sesame, apple, ginger and some other spices, a plate with all the Umami flavor But it is also more than advisable to taste the tuna belly with salt wrapped in sea lettuce or a tuna sirloin, "with just a touch on the beach, which has a spectacular taste."

Marinated wild bluefin tuna tacos from Almadraba © Faro de Cádiz

In addition, this fish is also part of the menus of the other three restaurants in the El Faro Group: Ventorrillo El Chato, Barra Sie7e and El Faro de El Puerto (this in El Puerto de Santa María). In the south, restaurants like Abantal (Seville), Aisushi (Granada) or Drift (Málaga) are also great options to enjoy the best tuna.

In Madrid, most restaurants in the The Machine Group They also make it easier to taste the best quality tuna. Specifically, they have dishes with this product establishments Door 57, The Jorge Juan Machine, The Chamberí Machine, La Moraleja Machine, The Original Machine, Casa Nemesio, The Machine Garden, Narcisa House and El Patron.

Ventresca, tartar, tarantelo or Barbate bluefin tuna sashimi are some of the proposals of its group of chefs, which ensure that to treat this fish you have to pamper it at all times: from cutting and chopping the tuna loin with a specific Japanese knife until cold to preserve the flavor and presentation.

As a final conclusion, it is important get informed, ask and know the product as well as possible to learn to enjoy it as well as possible and, also, to avoid being deceived. Fishermen and restaurateurs are the main reliable sources, but there are also some specialized media and websites where we can collect information. Either the Web of the Organization of Fisheries Producers of Almadraba or spaces like Tuna, where in addition to knowing the product, you can also learn many recipes.

Wild bluefin tuna tartare from Almadraba © Grupo La Maquina

Video: 'Wicked Tuna' Star Paul Hebert Under Federal Indictment for Fraud (February 2020).

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