Hot Dish

Safe seafood Eating wild seafood can be hazardous to your health, particularly if you're pregnant or a little kid. The FDA advises such folks not to eat shark, swordfish, and some other large marine species because they accumulate dangerous quantities of toxic mercury over their long lifetimes. What the FDA doesn't tell you is that you can get a dangerous dose of mercury from canned tuna, too. But you can dodge the bullet if you stick to eating young, local, line-caught tuna in preference to the 60-pounders netted by the big tuna boats, mostly in the southern Pacific. How do you tell what you're getting? Read the can: Responsible tuna fisherfolk like Seattle-based Papa George and St. Jude boast of the clean bill of health given their tuna by independent testing labs. You can also tell by the price: Their tuna costs two to three times as much as the factory-fishery product. Bird obesity ban? Last week the U.S. banned the importation of French foie gras, alleging sanitation problems in its production. But foie gras is in trouble here at home, too. The buttery-smooth substance, long a symbol of high-class French cuisine, is being produced in ever-greater quantities in the U.S., where it has attracted the attention of animal-rights activists like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). And not just PETA; in California, where most U.S. foie gras is produced, state Sen. John Burton, D–San Francisco, has introduced a bill to ban its manufacture altogether. Foie gras translates as "fat liver," and is produced by forcing starchy mash down the gullets of geese (or ducks). Trying vainly to produce enough bile to digest the oversupply of food, the livers of these birds bloat and become larded with fatty tissue: tasty stuff, but produced by making an animal deathly sick. California foie gras producers have struck back, claiming that a ban on their pricey product is just the entering wedge in a vegan conspiracy to ban all animal protein from the human diet. Maybe so; meantime, enjoy your appetizer of diseased-duck-liver en croute while you can. Fat chance Seems that people have an appetite for obesity lawsuits these days, but the state Senate just can't stomach them. The new Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, lobbied by the Washington Restaurant Association (WRA), was passed last month by the Senate. If accepted by the state House, it will curb lawsuits claiming that the excess of dining choices are making Washington diners fat. The WRA suggests that instead of suing post–weight gain, diners take the proactive approach of assuming responsibility for their own dining choices. Imagine that. Calling all kids Kids love the Old Spaghetti Factory for the spumoni. Parents love it for making their tots excited about eating a well-rounded meal. Child magazine has ranked the 10 healthiest national restaurants for kids, and the Portland-based OSF is no. 5 for its $3.65 kid's meal: pasta with meat, clam, or mushroom sauce; salad or apple sauce; milk or apple juice; and the spumoni (or a healthier frozen juice bar). The Melting Pot fondue restaurants, Red Lobster, Benihana, and Chili's also made the list. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at

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