Rosa Lopez, Havana, 17 July 2014, 14ymedio — Many Cubans opt for the informal market instead the high prices of the products in hard currency stores. Who among us has not bought cheese, ketchup or milk in illegal trading networks? However, when we acquire something in secret and do not know the seller, the chances of being scammed or buying spoiled merchandise multiply. The greatest danger, however, is to buy a product that damages our health, hence it is important to be careful with certain foods.
Every Cuban adult has some experience to tell about a fish sold as red snapper and it was actually tench, Claria or barracuda. With the fish slickly packaged and displayed furtively, the trader assures us that it is ” good, white with few bones.” Later, in the pan or dish, frustrated, we discovered the deception.
Some customers claim to have a good contact to buy seafood that so far has not failed them. Lucky them! By contrast, the vast majority is supplied by an illegal and unstable market whose providers change frequently. The fish markets under state management offer little variety and high prices, not to mention the long lines that sometimes form in front of their doors.
It is easy to think that living on an island we can have our tables filled with seafood, oysters, sardines and other sea delicacies. Nothing is further from reality. In Cuba it it easier to find turkey hash “made in USA”, than a good marlin steak or grouper head soup.
The restrictions imposed on both private fishing and the sale of fish push us to the black market when looking for a good product. The species may have been caught in oxidation ponds belonging to factories or industries, and could introduce chemicals into our bodies that bring negative short and medium term effects.
On the island there are many reservoirs and coastal areas that contaminated by discharges from industries and settlements. Fish that live in those stretched should not be used for human consumption. An example is Havana Bay, whose waters are polluted by oil, sewage and other waste discharges.
Another threat is ciguatera, a food poisoning that is endemic in the tropics caused by eating infected fish. The fish afflicted with this disease cannot be identified by smell, taste or color.
If a stranger knocks at your door offering a tempting fish filet or steak, be careful. It may not be what they say, or in the worst case, it could damage your health.