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19th February 2020
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Something fishy

Posted 02/04/2013 by cgodfrey

After horsemeat, and even, as recent UK newspaper reports have suggested, cat and dog meat, comes the fish scandal. Recently published research has shown that up to 7% of cod and haddock sold in the UK is actually some other type of fish. In the Republic of Ireland, up to 25% of products labelled as cod or haddock were not what they were supposed to be, while in Europe the figure is between 25 and 33%.

And it turns out that new varieties of fish are also being passed off as traditional types of fish. According to the BBC, the authorities at Frankfurt airport in Germany, one of the major gateways into Europe for frozen fish, has identified species of fish never caught before, certainly in Europe.

Researchers at the UK’s University of Salford, say that more expensive fish is being replaced by cheaper varieties, such as pollock and Vietnamese pangasius, which is farmed in river estuaries in South-East Asia; so one must assume that there is a criminal intent behind this mislabelling of fish.

But this problem is not restricted to the UK and Europe; it has also been highlighted in the US and elsewhere. In New York, 25% of the fish served in restaurants was not what was stated on the menu.

It was telling, therefore, that during the recent PittCon analytical chemistry conference and exposition in Philadelphia, and the concurrent food lab conference, headlines in the only national US newspaper US Today were highlighting this new food scandal. Analysis is the key to determining the type and origin of fish just like meat products. But if the speakers in Philadelphia are to be believed, the analysis of fish on a regular basis would appear to be even further behind that of meat products in the food supply chain.

The BBC news report did, however, point out that as the staple ingredients for traditional ‘fish & chips’, the cod and haddock used are probably what they are said to be if they are frozen and labelled immediately they are caught and delivered to a UK port for further distribution.

Some fish & chip shops are now stating where and when the fish they fry were caught and even the name of the ship that caught the fish; an approach that has already been adopted by butchers, and even supermarkets, for the meat they sell, with information about the farm on which the animal or bird was reared.

And just as the news about counterfeit fish hit the headlines, it was joined by news about the publication of another US study, conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health, that shows people aged 65 and older may live an average of two years longer if they consume omega-3 fatty acids found in fish in modest amounts or more. What the study didn’t look at, however, was whether these counterfeit fish contain more or less omega-3 fatty acids than the real thing, such as mackerel and sardines.

So one presumes that the next study will look at which fish provide the best level of protective fatty acids. But then in the UK, nutritionists have always said that fish and chips provides a very healthy and balanced meal – they just didn’t know about the hidden benefits the Harvard researchers have fished out of the data.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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