Ingredients

Is Cream Dory really Safe to Eat?

January 20, 2015

I love, love dory (not that Dory, although she is pretty darn cute). Some might argue that it’s quite bland and insipid, but my palate has this mildly embarrassing tendency to be rather childish (which explains why you’ll probably find me nursing a glass of soda or juice at a party, while everyone else is having a shot….or three), so the fact that cream dory doesn’t really taste like fish actually appeals to me. Well, that and its oh-so-buttery texture.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my preference for the pale, boneless fillets. Apart from young children and the elderly (which makes me wonder which group I belong to exactly), cream dory has steadily gained popularity all over the world in the past decade. Also called the Pangasius fish, cream dory is prized by consumers and suppliers alike for its neutral flavor (which makes it ideal for endless permutations of cooking methods, flavorings, and sauces) and its low cost (especially when compared to similar fish varieties like cod and sole), respectively.

How-Dirty-Is-Cream-Dory

However, as with a lot of the world’s most popular ingredients (among other things), cream dory has had its share of controversies. Back in 2008, a French production outfit even came up with a documentary that claimed to uncover the beloved cobbler fish’s allegedly high levels of toxicity. Playing off the French word for fish (“poisson”), the “Poisson or Poison” documentary accused Pangasius fish growers of everything from freezing their stocks in contaminated river water to injecting them with the dehydrated urine of pregnant women from China (yes, really). Naturally, chain emails touting content from the said documentary made the rounds and most consumers began to be wary of the cobbler fillets in supermarket freezers and on restaurant menus.

So, what’s the real score? To get to the bottom of the issue, let’s analyze a couple of the biggest allegations pertaining to whether cream dory is safe for consumption or not:

Claim No. 1: Pangasius Fish are riddled with toxins and bacteria.

Since cream dory is sometimes known as the Vietnamese cobbler fish (after their country of origin), it’s been alleged that the Pangasius fish are grown in the Mekong River (which is apparently Vietnam’s version of our own Pasig River). Given that plenty of unscrupulous factories and pedestrians tend to dump industrial waste and garbage into the said river, it wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude that any sort of life form it houses is probably crawling with substances so toxic that they’re best known by their acronyms (DDT’s, CHL’s, HCH’s, etc.).

How-Dirty-Is-Cream-Dory2

While it might be true that the fish we know as cream dory are quite widespread in the Mekong basin, not all Pangasius fish are grown there either. Since the Pangasius fish are a hardy breed that’s able to withstand less than ideal water conditions like low oxygen levels and the occasional tropical storm, they can be grown practically anywhere. While we can’t speak for the cream dory suppliers in other countries, the legitimate ones here in the Philippines (such as the Vitarich Corporation, which leads the farming and distribution of locally-grown cream dory) do raise their fish in clean, well-maintained ponds that undergo regular inspections.

How-Dirty-Is-Cream-Dory3

Thus, if you’re looking to stock up on cream dory fillets, it would be best to hit reputable supermarkets and to look closely at the produce that you’re getting. If you’re unsure about a certain foreign brand, then you may want to play it safe by opting for the local (but no less reputable) alternatives. Imported cream dory fillets are known to be white in color and have a more subtle flavor, while local fillets have a slightly yellow hue and a slightly sweeter flavor.

Claim No. 2: Pangasius Fish is so cheap because growers feed it garbage and bits of dead fish.

Some of the cream dory’s biggest detractors generally claim that Pangasius growers tamper with the feeds by grinding up bits of waste material (e.g., dead fish) into a paste and mixing it up with all sorts of hormones. This sort of toxic, unregulated feed is supposedly what makes the Pangasius fish grow into humongous sizes quickly, which is purportedly the reason why they are cheap to produce and to sell.

For starters, it’s true that Pangasius fish are known to be highly adaptable eaters who aren’t really picky about what’s placed before them. And yes, they have been known to be bottom feeders who might scavenge around for food. However, while some unscrupulous fish growers do take advantage of this fact by stuffing their fingerlings with all sorts of chemicals and wastes to speed things up a bit, the legitimate suppliers opt for industry-approved standard feeds that do not make the Pangasius fish unsafe for consumption.

How-Dirty-Is-Cream-Dory4

Also, upon further investigation, there are a lot of factors that contribute to cream dory’s rather cheap price. These include the Pangasius fish’s hardy nature and its resulting low mortality rate. Say, about 40,000 fingerlings were being raised in a certain pond. On average, you can expect about a little over 200 of them to perish prior to maturity. That’s a mortality rate of less than 1%.

Then there’s its significantly higher stocking density. Unlike other fish like the tilapia, Pangasius fish can still thrive in crowded ponds, making it easier for fish growers to grow more of them in the same space allocated to less hardy fish breeds, thus driving the cost down even further.

The Verdict

Seeing as the local Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has not exactly put out any statement banning cream dory from the markets or the restaurants (and have actually encouraged local agricultural entrepreneurs to grow the fish), it’s probably safe to assume that cream dory can stay on our menus. Given the Pangasius fish’s rather meteoric rise over the years, it’s highly possible that some rival fish purveyors may have exaggerated certain things about it to come up with a targeted (and apparently effective) black propaganda against the beloved cream dory as a species.

But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t be vigilant about where we source our food. As with a lot of the ingredients on the market, cream dory can also be grown by dishonest producers who could care less about the harmful effects of cutting corners. Failing to take that into consideration and then indiscriminately buying or eating anything resembling cream dory would still inevitably result in an upset stomach at best.

What are your thoughts about cream dory? Is there another side of the story you’d like to tell us about? Sound off by leaving a comment below!

Serna Estrella SEE AUTHOR Serna Estrella Serna is a slim piggy who heartily believes that salads are not real food and that desserts (fruit salad not included) should have their own food group. When she's not terrorizing people with her Grammar Nazi tendencies, she likes to hunt for the perfect afternoon tea spot that lets her pretend she's still in the age of Austen (albeit with electricity and better dental care).
24 comments in this post SHOW

24 responses to “Is Cream Dory really Safe to Eat?”

  1. alysa says:

    Sometimes it’s hard to imagine they’re anything but safe to eat because the packaged fillets are so white and clean to look at. Hehe.

  2. Volts Sanchez says:

    1. Isn’t tilapia considered one of the hardiest fishes out there? They can thrive even in muddy water and in concentrations that would make a guppy faint.

    2. Have you heard the rumor that much of what is locally sold as cream dory is actually Hypostomus Plecostomus from the Pasig River? Hehe, funny but true (that the rumor exists, that is).

  3. Dez says:

    Have you seen the actual fish? It’s hideous! Actually, that’s what made me stop eating cream dory in the first place. 😀

  4. cutedoc says:

    i used to love cream dory, when it hit the market years back it used to be pricey, considering how it could be raised, but then again some elders warn of not consuming fish without scales, for they could absorbed everything including toxin such as mercury and other harmful elements.

    so we stay away from it since then, but how about tilapia, I’ve read consuming tilapia is as bad as consuming bacon, so scrap it on my list of fish as well.

    • Dez says:

      I’ve read the same articles you have. I base the tilapia consumption on the taste. The last batch I bought (alive) tasted muddy, like I was eating fishes that were caught in a swamp. It’s been 8 months since I last bought tilapia. But I’ve been buying the tilapia fillets by Cold Storage— no muddy taste. 🙂

      • cutedoc says:

        worst is when tilapia are caught in a dirty swamp, they might have eaten chix dung, or rats poo or cockroach and there are no water there is no water movement thereby making the habitat filthy, one reason why i avoid tilapia as well…

    • Jake Roces says:

      Consuming rice or bread is more evil than bacon and tilapia :). It’s actually a longterm toxin that fuels diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. I think you’ve scrap the wrong type of diet on your list.

  5. PCastillon says:

    I tried cooking a dish using cream dory for the first time a few days ago… and, I hated it but I have to finish the whole dish because I’m more concerned of wasting precious money than pleasing my tastebuds. I’m not buying and making a dish using cream dory again. Though I might eat it if someone cooks it really well.

  6. Micael says:

    mmmmmm, kinda want a sweet & sour fish fillet right about now 😀

  7. IDK says:

    (why are there so many phrases in parentheses)

  8. guesa says:

    the taste of the fish is so muddy and mouldy but every so called chef is using this kind of fish
    so im very carefully in ordering and ask allways twice what fish is used for the dishes.worst experience was kinilaw made from pangasius

  9. John says:

    I’m sorry but when you mentioned Vitarich, my stomach turned. You do know what Vitarich produces, right? (Chicken feed, et cetera) And the godawful smell that their factory emits (pass by it almost every day)? Although my reason isn’t logically sound, I’d rather just stay away from cream dory to be on the safe side. France isn’t the only country to ban the fish and frankly, cream dory tastes like frankenfish or something that has been processed to the nth degree.

  10. gil banaria says:

    Paranoia

  11. aegontargaryen says:

    fish + urine = lutefisk (norwegian delicacy),
    google it

  12. Myrene Magabo says:

    Thanks for your article, Verna! I love fish and I love cream dory. You make total sense and I hope that Vitarich would do something. Why can’t they get the farm or backyard-raised cream dory tested for toxic level? I love pink salmon and it is also known to be toxic. Well, nothing seems really safe. Isn’t it?

  13. Rob (^_^).v says:

    Oh! When did you wrote this, January 2015? BFAR didn’t put a ban on this fish, because during the time of PNoy, people in higher ranks are too busy thinking about how they could steal people’s money and not get caught (through various anomalous transactions); and thus, they neglected their true duty to fund “real researches” about things such as this, and other matters that needs researching. You might wanna ask BFAR again this time to conduct a new research. A real one. 😉

  14. ARCELI B. MILLA says:

    is cream dory high in bad cholesterol?

  15. Marianne Guinolbay says:

    Yeah! Thank you very much. I am so tempted to feed Dory to my kids but was dissuaded by my Dad who stayed for four years in Vietnam. Thanks for your article.

  16. Roy says:

    Wait till you see where your beef and pork come from…

  17. W. Stack says:

    People worry about bottom feeder fish, but eat pork by the kilo…

  18. baracuda says:

    If that’s the case, why is the rate of people who eats rice daily ex. japan has lower cases of cancer than bacon eating countries like america? Don’t just believe things you see over the internet.

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