Cheap fish sold expensive. A research group from the University of Oviedo has uncovered a fraud in the labeling of frozen fish that directly affects the pockets, but that has a high environmental price and, probably, also sanitary.
The work carried out by the University’s Aula de Investigación sobre Recursos Naturales-ARENA and the results of which have been published in the magazine ‘Scientific Report’ reveals that 1.9% of the analyzed samples had incorrect labeling, “an intentional fraud” in frozen fish from African fishing grounds, such as hake or tuna, highly consumed in Europe.
“In addition to a deception, this is a problem at an environmental level that can lead to another toilet”, alerts Alba Ardura, researcher
from the Department of Functional Biology and one of the researchers of the work. This happens because you are “Surrogate species” not only are cheaper, but some are in danger of extinction and they are not even regulated in the market, which points to a illegal fishing, according to the study.
Specifically, it is the endangered species ‘Thunnus thynnus’, juveniles of tuna marketed as anchovies, and African hake, ‘Merluccius polli’, not yet regulated as a substitute species.
The group has not yet begun the analyzes that will determine if there is risk to the consumer, but Ardura confirms that are now studying the presence of heavy metals and micropalastics, since “it could be that the species were more contaminated than others that are controlled.”
In fact, the ‘Oceanic Karma’ project, in which researchers from the University of Oviedo participated two years ago, revealed the presence of contaminants in fish African coming from the electronic trash that Western powers send to Africa.
Those responsible for this fraud are unknown. “We do not know because we simply take the bag of fish, and we compare the label (which contains the fishing area and species) with genetic data to check if it is the species that appears”, india Ardura. In any case, the origin “has to come from the distribution company responsible for packaging the fish or from the catch area,” says the researcher.
The group has also not revealed which company markets this percentage of poorly labeled fish in Spain and ensures that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has not contacted the researchers to learn more about fraud.
To tackle this type of fraud, which is more common in frozen fish than in fresh fish, the researcher suggests that the gaps in regulation. «It is clear, but There is a step that should be regulated and it allows us to always find an error», Points out Ardura. In addition, it indicates it is necessary “to carry out a more exhaustive control by means of DNA analysis that tells you unequivocally what species it is.”
But beyond the legislation, Ardura points out that “an education about the problems that these errors entail is vital because if we are depleting the resources in the capture area, the fisherman is also going to be harmed.”
For its part, the consumer “can do little”laments the researcher. Of course, he assures that this type of fraud is more common in processed products (frozen, sliced, filleted, on sticks, etc.) than in fresh products that are easily recognizable in fishmongers.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism