Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Please pass on the turtle!
From the Daily News:
MARINE PATHOLOGIST James Cervino stood silently in a crowded Flushing supermarket recently as a fishmonger used a giant meat cleaver to hack at a still-writhing turtle.
Cervino watched as the turtle was gutted, stuffed in a bag, and handed over to a female customer.
"That was terrible," said Cervino, 48, of College Point, as he walked out of the Ou Jiang Supermarket on Main St.
Cervino, now a visiting scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, said he fears that the types of unusual seafood that can be found in local supermarkets and aquariums may be fished using illegal and dangerous means.
Not knowing the true provenance of their seafood could expose New Yorkers to bacterial infections or mercury poisoning. Cervino wants to change that.
"There's no documentation or chain of custody that can be proven to the consumer what the source of these animals is," Cervino said. "If people are eating it wrong, they can get salmonella poisoning and cholera."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies turtles as seafood, said Jessica Ziehm, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. The FDA uses the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program, or HAACP, to ensure that the fish for sale comes from an approved and inspected source.
"We always make sure that we see the papers to ensure that the turtles did not come from a pond," Ziehm said.
But turtles don't always make for good eating, Cervino said. The salmonella bacteria can often be found on the skin and shells of pet turtles, according to the FDA.
Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said her department has received complaints of people poaching turtles from Kissena Lake at Kissena Park, though the agency has yet been unable to confirm it.