Paul Holmes 25 Jan 2013 // 11:37AM GMT
Most food producers have been forced, at one time or another, to deal with rumors about their products’ “secret ingredients,” so in many ways, this Slate article about rumors that calamari may instead contain pig rectum is nothing we haven’t heard before. But I would like to comment on the response of the various industry associations involved in this issue. First, there’s Greg DiDomenico of the Garden State Seafood Association, who claims that the rumor is “a stunt to get publicity for the seafood traceability legislation," and says that any of "several environmental groups" might be behind it. Based on DiDomenico’s allegation, we don’t know if any environmental groups are involved in spreading rumors about calamari. But we do know that the Garden State Seafood Association is involved in spreading rumors—without any evidence to back them up—about environmental groups, and has thus surrendered any high ground it might have had. More significant, however, is the fact that if the seafood industry wants to put an end to rumors of this kind, it has an easy way to do so, alluded to in Diomenico’s comments. The Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act was introduced in Congress last summer, and would put a swift end to such controversy. Is the seafood industry eager to see the passage of regulations that would restore trust in its products? Of course not. Quoting Jan Harold Brunvand, a folklorist at the University of Utah, a legend doesn't stick unless it has "a foundation in actual belief," and contamination stories arise from our basic distrust of corporations. You’d think an industry concerned about rumors would be actively supporting measures that might increase trust, rather than fighting them.