Article Date: 2013-04-02
There has recently been a substantial amount of media coverage regarding mislabelling of fish species in the UK and Ireland.
The study referred to in this press coverage was undertaken in 2011.
Using a DNA barcode technique (COI barcoding gene), 226 cod products from Ireland and the UK were genetically tested. Samples were taken of smoked, breaded and battered fish.
Cod mislabelling proved more severe in Ireland than in the UK (28.4% vs 7.4%). Dana Miller, who led the study, explained, "By genetically-testing cod product samples purchased from supermarkets we found threatened Atlantic cod mislabelled and sold as "sustainably sourced Pacific cod."
She added that all of the cod products mislabelled as sustainably sourced Pacific cod were purchased from a single supermarket chain that operates in both Ireland and the UK.
90% of cod and haddock served in UK fish and chip shops is caught in Icelandic and Norwegian waters and is frozen at sea (FAS) within hours of being caught. This fish is sustainably sourced and the packaging is clearly labelled. In this way, many fish and chip shops can tell exactly when and where the fish was caught, as well as identifying the species.
The remaining 10% is "wet fish" - fish that is caught and stored in ice, and is landed at UK ports. Some coastal fish and chip shops are able to buy available catch directly from the boats, supplementing with FAS fish as needed.
It is part of the criteria for the NFFF Fish & Chip Quality Award scheme that fish species is clearly identified on the menu board. Shops not in the scheme are encouraged to identify the fish species they are selling at point of sale.