Customers being codded with mislabelling of fish

THE mislabelling of less expensive types of fish like whiting and pollack as cod is four times more prevalent in Ireland than in Britain.

Scientists found that 28% of cod products in Ireland are mislabelled, compared with 7% in Britain.

A Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) analysis of fish samples taken from retail outlets across the state published earlier this year found one-third of takeaways were labelling fish incorrectly.

Wrongly labelled fish was being sold in almost 20% of the 111 retail outlets in the survey. Takeaways were the worst offenders.

The FSAI warned that enforcement action would be taken against outlets found to be intentionally misleading consumers.

“If a consumer wants to buy a piece of cod, it should be a piece of cod they are buying and not some other fish,” he said.

Both Ireland and Britain operate under the same EU policies for seafood traceability and labelling.

In the latest study, scientists from University College Dublin found 37 of the 131 cod products purchased in Ireland and seven of the 95 purchased in Britain were mislabelled.

Research leader Dr Stefano Mariani, from UCD’s School of Biology and Environmental Science, said most of the mislabelled cod products were less expensive fish species substituted for cod and sold to consumers at a premium price

Cod is the most popular whitefish consumed in Ireland and Britain and demand remains high despite the fact that local Atlantic stocks have largely been depleted. Much of the cod is now imported.

The researchers found that almost 90% of all mislabelled cod products were smoked, breaded or battered, which was not surprising as such processing can conceal the appearance, smell and taste of the fish fillet.

Dr Mariani said they also found cod products were mislabelled to specifically match a demand for more sustainable seafood choices.

“By genetically testing cod product samples purchased from supermarkets, we found threatened Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) mislabelled and sold as ‘sustainably sourced’ Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus),” said Dana Miller, who completed the study as part of her PhD at UCD.

She said all cod products mislabelled as “sustainably sourced” Pacific cod were purchased from a single supermarket chain operating in both Ireland and Britain.

The research was funded by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology.

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