Not So Cool After All?

Starting in April, every package of fresh fish sold in supermarkets across the land must bear a label specifying what country the fish hails from and whether it was farmed or wild-caught. Great news for fish lovers, right? Uhhhh . . . maybe. What's certain is that the new federal "country-of-origin labeling" (COOL) law is going to be perfect hell for fish markets to implement and for inspectors to enforce. And the most conscientious fish markets are going to be burdened the most. "When you're always scouring the market for the freshest fish you can find, you may be buying Mexican scallops one day and Chilean the next," says Metropolitan Markets CEO Terry Halvorsen. "The seafood market these days is worldwide and so efficient that we have to depend on our suppliers for the information we need to meet the law's requirements. Labeling is going to be labor-intensive, that's for sure. And it's going to cost money—whether a dime a pound or whatever, we don't know yet." The pear facts Now that they've achieved world domination with The Lord of the Rings, it seems there's no stopping those Kiwis. New Zealand techno-savants have taken on one of science's toughest remaining challenges: how to tell if a pear is ripe. Their solution: a plastic clamshell equipped with a sensor that changes color from red to yellow as "aroma compounds" accumulate within the box. A Pear Bureau Northwest spokesperson acknowledges that the old-fashioned pear-ripeness check—push the stem end with your thumb, and if it feels "mooshy," it's ready—is just as reliable, but Shannon Hitchcock of Heart of Washington, a state-funded organization to promote Washington agriculture, disagrees. "The ripeSense™ label takes away the guesswork for consumers. Anything that makes a product more consumer-friendly is good for the bottom line." Early adopters can check out ripeSense four-packs at Haggen and Top Foods stores in Washington and Oregon. We'd love to hear what you think. Us, we're still mooshing with our thumbs. Typhoon! to the rescue Now that the hype has subsided some, those suffering from December's tsunami need our help more than ever, and various members of the Thai Restaurant Association of Washington state are ready to offer their heartfelt assistance. Racha Noodles & Thai Cuisine in Seattle was one of the first restaurants on the ball with a Tsunami Relief Fund-Raiser on Jan. 6 that raised a grand total of $22,554.80. The money was sent immediately to the Royal Thai Consulate in Los Angeles, where it will be passed along to the Thai Red Cross. Racha isn't the only restaurant with a heart though. On Jan. 11, the six Chow Foods restaurants exceeded their goal by over 30 percent, raising $13,819 for Mercy Corps. And all six Typhoon! restaurants (everywhere from downtown Seattle to Oregon) are donating all lunch profits from Monday, Jan. 17, through Friday, Jan. 21, to a royal foundation for orphaned children under the sponsorship of His Majesty the King. If you have to skip the lunch break, at least swing by any Typhoon! and donate directly to UNICEF Thailand, or stop by any of the other 58 Thai restaurants in the association that will be sporting the red, white, and blue Tsunami Relief donation boxes until Jan. 31. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at

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