While different species can be labelled and sold as tuna, it could be intentionally mislabelled and sold at an increased cost  © Getty Images/500px
While different species can be labelled and sold as tuna, it could be intentionally mislabelled and sold at an increased cost © Getty Images/500px

Third of Canadian fish mislabelled within supply chains

12 February 2019

Mislabelling of fish is taking place throughout the supply chain in Canada, according to a report.

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada found that almost a third (32%) of fish samples analysed were mislabelled.

Using DNA barcoding, researchers examined over 200 fish samples, collected from various retailers, processing plants and importers throughout Ontario to analyse where mislabelling of fish is most commonly happening within the supply chain.

While 32% of samples had been mislabelled, the study found that the mislabelling rate within retailers was almost 40%, while the rate was 27.3% in samples gathered from processing plants and 17.6% at the import stage.

Professor Robert Hanner, the study’s lead author, said the higher mislabelling rate in samples collected from retailers indicated the role of distribution and repackaging in seafood mislabelling, and this could be a product of inconsistent regulations or intentional mislabelling to increase prices.

He said: “It’s either economically motivated, meaning cheaper fish are being purposely mislabelled as more expensive fish. Or it’s inconsistent labelling regulations between countries and the use of broader common names being used to label fish instead of scientific species names that are leading to mislabelling.”

In Canada and the US fish is often labelled using a common name, rather than its specific scientific name. While a variety of species may be labelled and sold as tuna, different species can vary significantly in price, creating ambiguity and potentially leading to fraud and human error, Hanner said.

He continued: “It also makes it more difficult to track species at risk or indicate if a fish is a species that has higher mercury content. At the end of the day, Canadian consumers don’t really know what type of fish they are eating.”

The study comes as UK researchers revealed that retailers had been selling shark species considered endangered in Europe under common names such as huss, rock salmon and rock eel.

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