Tuna Scrape: The Pulverized Scrap Fish Paste Inside Your Spicy Tuna Roll

Illustration for article titled Tuna Scrape: The Pulverized Scrap Fish Paste Inside Your Spicy Tuna Roll

Just when pescatarians thought they were safe, news come to us of tuna scrape, the pink slime of the sea. After a fish has been filleted, there is often salvageable meat still left on its skeleton. Scrape is the combined chopped mixture of scraps from filleted fish whose leftover meat is still good enough not to waste.


Because its coastal waters are teeming with tuna, India is a primary purveyor of tuna scrape. They even have specialized devices for removing the meat from the bone. Once its been collected, the scraped tuna is combined with meat from other fish, ground up, frozen in blocks, and shipped to commercial importers in the USA. (We import about 80% of the seafood we sell domestically.)

As author and professor Marion Nestle explains over at the Atlantic, fish scrape furor arose when on April 13 the FDA announced that Moon Marine USA (an importing company based in Cupertino) was recalling 30 tons of frozen raw ground yellowfin tuna, also called Nakaochi scrape.


According to the CDC, this scrape was responsible for 250 diagnosed cases and potentially as many as 6k undiagnosed cases of illness caused by two particularly nasty strains of salmonella. In interviews, 80% of those who'd become ill said they had purchased and eaten spicy tuna rolls from grocery stores and restaurants.

Because tuna scrape is the combined meat of multiple fish, frozen raw, and imported internationally, it is considered high-risk for contamination. And the FDA only inspects about 1-2% of foreign imports, so our health is largely in the hands of foreign manufacturers and food producers.

As it happens, the Nakaochi scrape came from a single processer in India that is owned by Moon Marine International, of Taiwan. True sushi connoisseurs will tell you that there is always a risk involved when eating raw fish, but because in a single roll made with scrape there can be meat from several different fish, the scrap paste that is tuna scrape takes that risk to a whole new level. [The Atlantic - Image via Shebeko/Shutterstock]

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It's probably not clear to most people why this "scrape" is more dangerous than other types of food. First off this scrape is primarily being sold to the consumer uncooked therefore a high risk of salmonella. Now you might ask why it's more dangerous than other types of raw fish. Most raw fish is hand cut and tools see limited use between cleanings. Scrape is machine cut, and done so in bulk meaning if a blade get's tainted then you have tons of tainted meat cause it will spread to everything it touches. Same goes for any other type of ground meat which is why you should always make sure it's well done. Now steak can be rare because it's fully cooked where it's cut along the edges. It's still at risk for parasites and such (which is why you never eat rare pork), but not salmonella so much.