What’s in a name? Flat Creek cited for selling swai as catfish at Republic location

Steve Chapman

Swai fish

An inspector for the Greene County Health Department stated in a report dated Monday, Nov. 15, that the restaurant was found to be selling swai fish while listing it as catfish on their menu.
“Observed swai being advertised and sold as catfish on menu,” the inspector stated in the report. “Food must be honestly presented. Catfish may be obtained and sold as catfish or menus can be changed to signify fried fish instead of catfish.”

What is swai fish?
Swai (pronounced sway), also called pangasius or iridescent shark, is a species of shark catfish native to the rivers of Southeast Asia. It is found in the Mekong basin and the Chao Phraya River, and is cultivated heavily for food in Vietnam. It is considered to be both affordable and pleasant tasting, and as of 2018, was the sixth most popular fish for culinary use in the United States. Swai imported into the United States was listed as Asian catfish until the Food and Drug Administration created a regulation in 2003 that stated only fish in the Ictaluridae family could be labeled as catfish, which excluded swai.
There are questions surrounding whether swai even should be eaten, as many of the fish farms where they are raised are known to generate large amounts of waste which are illegally dumped into rivers, and Vietnamese fish farms where they are raised are known to raise the fish on leftover food from restaurants or cheap fish food. Mercury levels found in the fish have also been a cause for concern

Flat Creek owners say no deception was intended
Josh Rasmussen and Alan Kram, owners of Flat Creek Restaurant, say they have received a lot of negative reactions since the health inspector’s report was released, but that they were not trying to deceive their customers by listing the swai as catfish on their menu.
“It’s never been a switch-and-bait, it’s never been for us to be more profitable,” Rasmussen said. “It’s what people like, and it’s what they enjoy eating. That’s why we serve it.”
Kram said, up until the inspector informed them otherwise, they believed they were accurately representing the fish by calling it catfish.
“In the state of Missouri, we were under the impression that it always has been that swai fish … is a form of catfish, just like when you have … channel catfish, blue catfish and all different kinds of catfish,” he said. “We were under impression that it is catfish, and I think if you look it up … it is catfish. So, it’s a pangasius catfish that we are serving.”
Kram also said that, for all intents and purposes, swai should be considered catfish.
“(It’s) kind of like the old saying, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck,” he said. “Well, this catfish, when you look up the definition, it is a catfish. It’s like, what is the difference between blue catfish, channel catfish, and there’s several, several other domestic catfish. There are differences, but they’re all (in the) catfish family. And this is part of the catfish family.”

Owners says swai fish remains popular dining option
Kram and Rasmussen said they would modify their menus in compliance with the findings of the health inspector’s report. However, Rasmussen also said that, regardless of what the health department says their fish should be called, there is no disputing that their customers enjoy the fish they serve and added that the demand for it remains high, with the restaurant serving 17,000 pieces a week.
“It’s a cleaner fish, a cleaner-tasting white, flaky fish,” he said. “Most people that eat it like it more than (catfish). They say it’s the best fish they’ve ever had in their lives.”
Kram said that swai are raised in water that is much cleaner than the heavily muddied waters American catfish prefer.
“The way they raise it … I honestly think it’s a better product because it’s raised in a nest with water streamed through it, where if you take domestic catfish, they feed on mud and that’s why it has a much stronger taste and the mud veins that are in it that you don’t get with the pangasius catfish,” he said.
Rasmussen pointed out that swai is approved for consumption in America by the United States Department of Agriculture, and added that they buy the fish from the Ben E. Keith Company, the third-largest food distributor in the nation, which means the fish’s quality is guaranteed.
“It’s 100-percent legit,” he said. “It’s not like we’re buying off the back door of a fish truck.”
He also said that Flat Creek is hardly alone in serving swai fish.
“It’s consumed every day in every state in the whole country,” he said.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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