CHOICE membership

You aren't always eating what you think you are (long post so be warned lol)


Add to the fit-out costs the cut-throat nature of the business in any major city and you are absolutely correct. It wasn’t until I started my apprenticeship that I learnt how many eating establishments (restaurants, cafes, take-aways) opened and closed each week in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - it truly is astounding.


I’ve known of this for years now as buy at wholesale myself and see what the restaurants buy. I got this rash on my arms when we first moved down to Tassie buying at fish market. Should have been safe but no it was catfish marked up as Basa sold openly these days in Coles and Woolworth even though not legal to do so anymore but no one polices it too expensive. Well pay something like 4.8 mil to run AusPost multiplied plus rip off travel and other things going on and not much left in Budget for front line troops is there? Told Basa if catfish from Vietnam and highly contaminated from waters.
Shame on fact that Greed one of the 7 deadly sins is rampant today in business and elsewhere. Not many have a conscience re harm to others when it comes to profits for themselves. And why? Well with travel rorting coming to light once again and once again nothing will happen except a Minister is replaced and the whole thing goes on with no real penalties and no party in power today or yesterday or Greens on sideline are innocent of not doing what they should.Well greed has driven to the point it is blatant and now we are all aware how we are being used.
We need to get back to common sense and being able to trust each other and like most has said, that will come back again if doing the wrong thing is punished enough to make one stop. Basa Fish like generic medicines are one of the flag ships of greed caring nothing to others safety or health, designed for profit. Good on you for telling us the truth when learning the trade and being sickened. One of the good guys which gives us all hope that it can be sorted if we stick together and dont fall for the lies and twisted truths braodcast all too often as news.


Thanks for this - I wonder if this is the same with expensive restaurants in Canberra?


Fish and chips labelled ‘flathead’ priced dearly at a cafe. When it was served it did not look or taste like flathead. I asked the cafe if I was served flathead and the manager’s response was they forgot to tell me they ran out of flathead. This cafe is in Canberra. I now rarely have fish at resto. When buying fresh, i also ask if the fish is local - not imported - but how can we tell if label is correct?


Seafood labelling is a significant issue in Australia. Without regulation it’s pretty easy for less scrupulous traders to “mislead” their customers … however, use you voice people. Ask your fish monger or local supplier about their fish …and shop where the knowledge is.

Become aware of what you’re buying and use caution when in doubt. I will say that to black ban dining out on the basis of one “incompleted” apprenticeship is pretty narrow minded.
We are lucky to have passionate and ethically minded people in our country so support them and enjoy the amazing range of produce we have available for every day purchase.
I have worked in hospitality for 30 years and never seen product deliberately misrepresented.

Don’t be a fool and that includes anyone who knowingly buys basa - regulation won’t change unless we ask for it. So support legislative change but be prepared. Your locally caught fish costs more than the imports!!!


The profit margin is the ruler in most businesses and if it’s a pricey restaurant, I do think getting the ACCC involved in a couple of examples would be a good idea. Reviewers do have to be careful, but they can tell the truth. Instead of saying “the fish was not great, and could have been substituted like they were prosecuted for in 2017”, they just say “the ACCC prosecuted this place in 2017 for fish substitution. I decided to try it again, but it wasn’t the best I’ve eaten recently”. And the media can just give the results of the prosecution as it’s news. Social media will blitz it around everywhere, and every time someone mentions fish in their Trip Advisor review it would probably get a mention for a while as well.


As I read this series of posts I was reminded of Matthew Evans the resaurant reviewer and the reason he ended up in Tasmania.
He gave a Sydney restaurant a bad review and the case ended up in Court. (see Hannah Martin’s article in The Mercury, June 11, 2014) . The case dragged on for years.
While the case was before the Court Matthew came to Tasmania: in the long run it was a big win for Tasmania.


Well said dlmy66 and I don’t believe a “black ban” on dining out is something people should consider, there are many people working in kitchens around the country that take pride in what they put on the plate, and lying about what’s on the plate wouldn’t enter their heads. I’m also glad to see you’ve worked in the industry for 30 years and never seen it, but have to ask was that 30 years front of house or in the kitchen? Prior to my apprenticeship I had also worked in the hospitality industry since I was a teenager (am late 40’s now) and had never seen it either. Maybe it didn’t happen in all that time or in the establishments that I was employed in, or perhaps it was the fact that I was not working in the kitchen and therefore could not see what was going into the dishes.

As proved with Free Range eggs and food pricing labelling in supermarkets though, even if we ask for regulation we won’t get what’s really needed. It will end up being another business friendly, watered down piece of expensive wasted paper that will do nothing substantial to change or enlighten people’s choices. The only real choice people have these days is their own investigation and voting on businesses with their feet and word of mouth. We can no longer place our trust in government to do the right thing when it comes to looking after the consumer, they are even watering down the more serious things such as limiting compensation claims which will filter through to consumer claims in the years to come.

As for locally caught fish being more expensive than the imports, the majority of people I have talked to over the years are happy to pay a bit more for a safe, known product when it comes to what they eat. Where they blanch at local vs imported prices is in products such as books, whitegoods, technology products, etc. The movement is growing where many more people are buying their longlife groceries from the supermarket but all their fresh food from local greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers again - a movement I very much support and from your words you do too. People will be amazed how much better what they cook at home tastes once they get to know their local suppliers and use their knowledge on what’s best at the moment, what’s in season etc.


I enjoy Basa when cooked properly, but if people knew the basa fish (Pangasius bocourti) is a species of catfish in the family Pangasiidae and are native to the Mekong and Chao Phraya basins in Indochina, I believe this is where they come from, there would be hell to pay, retailers e.g Woolworths must show clearly where fish comes from ( and thank God for that). How do Restaurant owners get away with it???

Another rip off is the fact that when restaurants sell you Scallops quite often what you are getting is the wing of sting ray cut with a scone cutter type of device, I am quite often told by restaurant staff that " WE only sell scallops with roe removed because most people do not like Roe (RUBBISH) IT IS STINGRAY) blatant rip off. Come on choice do what you do best and make these thieves pay.


Hiya obbigttam

I totally agree with you!

I am more than happy to pay extra for my free range eggs and especially my fresh fish if I know FOR CERTAIN that it is Australian fish, and I like to know also where it comes from.

More and more consumers are demanding the truth in packaging and learning where their produce is sourced, and how it is farmed/grown, or whether it is true free range etc.

Thanks for the post.
Cheers Natalie :sunny:


I am interested to read your post. As a Hotel Management student in the the late 1960’s I was horrified at what I saw, in a so called high class kitchen. The staff would come into the coldroom in the morning and skim off all the moths and bugs that had landed in soup/stock/sauce/pots that had been left uncovered overnight.Cooked steaks dropped on the floor were washed under a tap & the sauce poured over them & back under the grill. Caterpillars were plucked from salads and wine that was served in a bottle who had been told was “orf” was taken back to the cellar, poured into a carafe and served back to the customer with no complaint! I could go on and on. I got out of the industry after about 10 years but still am wary of eating out.


We have two main species of scallops in Australia: commercial and saucer. Commercial scallops (previously called king or sea scallops), mainly from Tasmania, have creamy-coloured flesh and are generally sold with their tasty orange roe attached; their ridged, oval shells are pale pinky-red. Saucer scallops (previously called white or mud scallops), mainly from Queensland and WA, have firmer, whiter flesh; their thin, grey roe is removed when they are opened as it is not very appetising. They’re often sold still attached to their almost-round, smooth, reddish-brown shells. So those roe-less scallops may be Queensland or WA ones.


This sort of thing is a big part of the reason I became a vegetarian. Most people have no idea what they are digesting these days. Most people are either too busy or too ignorant to care about what is in their food especially processed food. How many people know what sort of fish is in that batter they buy at the fish shop?
Blame the Government. They are the ones that give the go ahead for these practices. I could go on forever but I won’t. Just be very vigilant when buying food.


caz.wood Your dead right, you’ll get any fish in batter, but they will charge you for price for good fish or the fish you asked for.
Government needs to regular more.


It depends on which fish and chip shop you go to. One I occasionally drop into in the lower Hunter has all the various species of fish on display, and you can select which one you want, which they then batter and fry or grill.


It’s not only about what sort of fish you are eating, it’s also about what they do to that fish. My daughter and I once went to have lunch at a seaside pub. We both ordered fish. As soon as it hit the table I could smell something that wasn’t fishy so I returned the meal to the barman and asked him to smell it. He said “Oh yeah that’s ammonia you can smell. We soak the fish in it to get rid of the mercury.” What the…


A quick Google suggests ammonia wont remove all the Mercury

In any case, if there is so much Mercury in the fish that they feel the need to attempt to remove it (and I cant imagine ammonia is an allowed food additive), it is best avoided, and maybe they should be reported to Health Dept, Food Standards etc.


Shark (Flake) can have an ammonia smell naturally. From a Wiki article “Unprocessed shark meat may have a strong odor of ammonia, due to the high urea content that develops as the fish decomposes.[3] The urea content and ammonia odor can be reduced by marinating the meat in liquids such as lemon juice, vinegar, milk, or saltwater”. So you may have been eating Flake.


I do quite a lot of surf fishing and we catch a lot of gummy sharks (flake) . First thing is to bleed them, dress them out and to remove all fins and refrig asap . This lessens the ammonia taste and also makes them easier to skin .


When harvesting my rainbow trout, I make sure I have them processed and in the freezer well before decomposition and ammonia off-gassing sets in! It’s generally less than an hour between catching, and immediately putting on ice before gutting etc, but I imagine it could be 12 hours or more between catching sharks on a boat and processing.
Actually, on thinking about that some more- it usually takes a couple of days for urea to break down into ammonia under aqueous conditions, so maybe its a day or 2 on the boat before processing