'Labelfish' focuses on the analysis of various fish products, among which are tuna, cod and anchovy. (Photo: File)
Up to 25pc of tuna products mislabelled
Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 00:40 (GMT + 9)
A report by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) reveals that the percentage of product mislabelling regarding tuna, cod and anchovy, among other resources, is between 2 and 18 per cent in Spain, the UK and Ireland.
CSIC coordinates the Labelfish project in Galicia, which addresses and seeks solutions to one of the main problems for consumers: fraud in the labelling of fish products.
This research was conducted by the CSIC through the Food Biochemistry Group under the Institute of Marine Research (IIM).
As a result of the competence of third countries, the European Union (EU) developed genetic methods to identify and authenticate commercial marine species. One of the Labelfish project goals is to update biobanks of the major commercial species.
This initiative has a total cost of EUR 1.9 million. Of this amount, EUR 1.2 million are funded by the Transnational Cooperation Operational Programme, Atlantic Area.
Six nations are participating in it: Spain, France, Ireland, Portugal, United Kingdom and Germany.
Carmen Gonzalez Sotelo, CSIC research scientist and coordinator of the initiative, highlighted that traceability of fishery products is mandatory in the EU since 2005.
That means, "Having information of source and raw materials used in their preparation and the ability to effectively transfer it to the following links in the production chain to the consumer," the expert explained.
"We sampled products made from tuna, cod and anchovy, which are marketed in 17 European cities, including Vigo and Santiago de Compostela- to determine if the law on traceability is being fulfilled," she explained.
According to data provided by the CSIC, in Spain the largest inaccuracy is found in products made with tuna (25 per cent in fresh and frozen tuna and 12 per cent in canned tuna) and anchovy semi-preserve (12 per cent); while it reaches 6.5 per cent in products made of dried salted cod.
However, the scientist noted that there was an improvement in the level of accuracy in labelling when compared with data from 10 years ago.
Some consumers may believe they are buying a product made with Galician coast hake (Merluccius merluccius) when it actually is hake from other countries such as South Africa (Merluccius capensis).
This does not mean that the quality is lower, said Gonzalez Sotelo, but the information provided on the labels must conform to reality, so that consumers can exercise their right of choice with reliable data.
On the other hand, Domingo Calvo Dopico, from the Department of Economic Analysis and Business Administration, Faculty of Economics and Business (University of Coruña) is conducting a market research in Spain aimed at determining the importance of labelling for consumers.
Given the initial results, the aspects that stand out are price and brand, to which, the product physical appearance and texture should be included.
Calvo Dopico emphasized that "consumers are increasingly demanding more quality assurance, since in many cases they do not have the ability to recognize what kind of fish they are buying or what its source or origin is".
Therefore, he deems it necessary to give "information on key aspects of the product and enhance control mechanisms along the catch or production, processing, distribution and sale chain of fishing or marine origin products."
By Analia Murias