Edible QR Codes Educate Sushi Diners

Some folks are really into their food facts; others really want their food facts inside them.

San Diego's Harney Sushi accommodates both preferences with edible QR (quick response) codes printed on rice paper. Sitting atop maki, nigiri and sashimi--sometimes presented as a garnish--these codes point smart phone-scanning diners to catch details on FishWatch.gov.

Seeking ways to better educate his customers on how/where his sashimi-grade fish are caught, Harney's Executive Chef Robert Huiz consulted with fisheries scientists at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. Providing unbiased, up-to-date seafood facts about sustainability and origin, he said, distinguishes his restaurant from less scrupulous operations serving misidentified fish.

"I chose FishWatch because it's the largest pillar in the sustainability world," says Ruiz. "I think the codes present all of the issues of sustainability-geopolitical, social, economic, environmental, and personal."

For Huiz, educating customers involves more than nutritional data. Scanning one of his edible QR codes provides profiles and population data for various fish stocks.

In addition to the sashimi, Harney's other QR codes feature albacore tuna and farmed cobia. For the albacore, a video disclaimer shows a sixth generation fisherman explaining his catch and packaging methods, along with sustainability and health benefit details.

"Seafood consumers need to recognize that they are in control and can effect real change in the seafood industry," says Ruiz. "Always ask questions about where your fish is from. Holding us accountable is the kind of thing that will continue to change the market."