independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Catch of day a red herring as fish labels all at sea

CONSUMERS are being codded over the fish they buy -- with one-in-four cod or haddock sold in Ireland not being the real thing.

If you thought there was something fishy about the produce bought in certain fishmongers, chippers and supermarkets you would have been right.

A study reveals that 25pc were from a different species altogether and the mislabelling rises to 82pc for smoked fish.

The study carried out by scientists in University College Dublin (UCD) and published by the Ecological Society of America yesterday revealed that cheaper pollock, argentine, coley and other fish are replacing pricier cod and haddock in Irish outlets.

Dr Stefano Mariani from the UCD School of Biology carried out DNA tests on frozen and fresh fish purchased at a range of Irish retailers.

He found that 39 out of 156 products were mislabelled as they were from an entirely different species.

The fish tested included products sold loose as well as packaged fish.

Dr Mariani said that as well as deceiving consumers, sustained mislabelling could hamper efforts to allow depleted cod stocks to recover.

"The high level of cod mislabelling found in Ireland gives a false perception of market availability, allowing consumers to believe that because cod is so widely available, the stocks must be healthy," he said.

He recommended that responsibility for enforcing seafood labelling and traceability in Ireland should be given to one national agency -- as at present three different government agencies are involved.

"Consumers should be able to trust the seafood label, especially when the fish products are purchased within the EU, where numerous policies relating to labelling and traceability are in place," Dr Mariani said.

It was impossible for them to determine where the mislabelling occurred because there was such a long journey from the fish being caught at sea through processing and then finally to the retailers.

But the scientists wanted to establish the scale of the problem here after a similar problem of seafood mislabelling had arisen in America.

Distinguish

They focused on cod and haddock in their research because white fish is the second most consumed seafood in Ireland -- behind farmed salmon -- and the similarities in appearance of fish fillets make it difficult to distinguish one species from another.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said it was unacceptable that consumers were being duped. "We will be keeping this under review," said FSAI chief executive Alan Reilly.

Irish Independent

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