University dives deeper into fish fraud

Wednesday 3 April 2013
Dr Stefano Mariani
Dr Stefano Mariani

Tests carried out by a University of Salford academic have revealed that a significant amount of fish labelled as cod or haddock is not what it claims to be.

Dr Stefano Mariani, a marine biologist from the School of Environment & Life Sciences, spearheaded the study which found that 7% of food labelled as cod or haddock was actually substituted for cheaper alternatives, such as pollock and Vietnamese pangasius.

Dr Mariani carried out the preliminary tests in Dublin, and took over 220 samples of cod and haddock from fish and chip shops and supermarkets, using a DNA barcoding method.

As a result, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the EU have granted the University funding to conduct more extensive testing here in Salford on six additional types of fish. The project, known as ‘LABELFISH’, will use more than 1,500 samples predominantly from supermarkets and fishmongers across the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and Germany.

LABELFISH will also compare different methods of testing, to achieve a standardised and optimum method to employ across the EU.

The food industry has already come under fire this year after it emerged that many products containing beef, including restaurant and ready meals, also contained traces of horsemeat. Although Dr Mariani’s preliminary research, which concluded prior to the horsemeat investigation, doesn’t raise any immediate health concerns, the study has revealed another case of consumer deception, and has led to widespread global news coverage.

Dr Mariani said: “Consumers should be able to go to a shop and know they are eating what they paid for. It is unlikely that the cheaper fish pose any threat to the consumer, but if something is labelled as cod then cod is what you should receive.”

While the amount of fish and seafood consumed globally is on the rise, Dr Mariani also conducted a blind taste test last November which showed that 39% of the fifty-five participants could correctly identify haddock, and only 15% could identify cod.

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