Mislabelling of fish


In the past we have talked about seafood been misrepresented when sold. In fact, they are not so much misrepresented/ mislabelled as under labelled. That is, the fish are given generic names like ‘white fish’ or ‘red salmon’. These of course really mean nothing and give no indication of what the fish really are. The best, or worst example, depending on how you look at it, are ‘Vietnamese sole’, a common source of protein in supermarkets throughout the world. This is actually a river catfish, no where near a sole. It is from the species Pangasius and there are many types of this fish, commonly called ‘Basa’ in the market place. In Singapore, at one point, it was called Dory fish. This was a step too far for the Singapore Government who then banned the name. ‘Thank goodness’, I mean trying to up the pedigree of a cat fish to a ‘John Dory’, is well, clearly just fraud.

So’ what am I saying? It is again down to you, the consumer, to be more educated in what you buy. Certainly, in the industry, steps are being made to help in this arena. But ultimately, it’s down to you as the technology will take some time to be implemented, if at all. The seafood industry is hoping that some world-first technology will protect against food fraud. This is portable X-ray fluorescence technology and trials are presently being run in a $202,500 project by the Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation

In this ‘testing’, an X-ray fluorescence machine will use elemental fingerprinting to ensure boxes marked as Australian product do not contain cheaper and counterfeited product from overseas. This testing looks at the elements of a species — where the elements from one region will differ from the elements of another determining where it comes from. Different fish species will have certain elements, such as the water or environment they have come from, that can allow researchers to identify their region of origin. This a wonderful, proactive step in Australia where they have identified fraudulent parties that mislabel produce as Australian products. The Australian Government has to be complemented for this progressive step, where the Agriculture Minister David Littleproud details why this is necessary, I quote in reference to the fraudulent mislabelling, "This could lead to devastating impacts on Australian seafood's good reputation and consumption if people lose faith in our products.

He’s right! But back to my first point again. Do consumers care? Well you should! Maybe look at it in dollar terms, you get a basa/ Vietnamese sole for USD 2.50 p/kg, whereas a John Dory is about USD 12.5 p/kg. If that ‘rip off’ does not motivate you, then what will?


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