Escolar: Label it accurately, but don’t ban it

 Escolar is frequently sold as tuna.


Escolar is frequently sold as tuna.


Any fish that can produce such severe gastrointestinal distress that it’s nicknamed the “Ex-Lax fish” is obviously not for everyone. The question confronting state lawmakers is whether escolar, an oily fish native to tropical and temperate waters, should be sold to anyone.

A proposed ban on selling escolar in Massachusetts is part of a package of measures that has been drawn up by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure to thwart the rampant mislabeling of seafood. In addition to banning escolar, which is already outlawed in Japan and Italy, the legislation would impose fines of up to $800 for supermarkets and restaurants that misrepresent their fish. Repeat offenders could lose their license to operate. The proposal comes after a Globe investigation found dozens of restaurants substituting cheaper fish for the more expensive species listed on the menu; escolar is frequently sold as white tuna or albacore.

On the whole, it’s a good plan that will add needed protections for consumers. But entirely banning escolar goes too far. Certainly, it would be reasonable to impose a higher fine for passing off escolar as something else, in light of its side effects. But there are, reportedly, diners who knowingly order escolar and enjoy it. As long as the fish is accurately labeled, those consumers should be allowed to keep buying it.

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