Why scallop ads say that there's `water added'


Advertisements for scallops always indicate "water added." why? I feel that I am paying a hefty price for water.

The scallop is the odd man out among mollusks. Clams, oysters and mussels all live close to the shore - you usually don't need a boat to find them. They are alive right up until the moment you shuck or steam them open.

But scallops that live in the ocean (i.e. sea scallops) are brought in by boats that spend more than a day at sea. They are usually shucked by the fishermen as soon as they come out of the water, and during the journey to shore - and store - they lose moisture, according to Roger Tollefsen, president of the New York Seafood Council.

The scallop industry figured out many years ago that if you soaked the shucked scallops in a phosphate solution (considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration), the scallops would retain their moisture.

Unfortunately, said Tollefsen, some unscrupulous operators discovered that the longer you soaked the scallops, the more water they would absorb. In other words, as you suspected, the consumer winds up paying for water.

The FDA stepped in, stating that only scallops containing no more than 82 percent water by weight can be labeled and sold as "scallops" without further explanation. If the scallops contain between 82 percent and 86 percent water, they must be labeled "water added." (Scallops containing more than 86 percent water are not supposed to be sold.)

You may have seen the term "diver scallops" or "dayboat scallops." Both terms signify that the scallops were brought ashore shortly after being harvested, and it's unlikely either type would be treated with phosphates. Same thing with bay scallops.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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