Fish fraud

How to avoid being a victim of fish fraud

Frozen prawns that are more ice than prawn. Catfish and chips not the cod you paid for at the chip shop. Sushi which isn't what it seems.

We're in danger of being duped into paying for fish and seafood products which aren't what they claim, according to Dr Alan Riley on last Friday's You and Yours (BBC Radio 4). 

Dr Riley led the investigation that discovered many beef products contained horse meat in 2017 and he's now written a report for the United Nations on Fish Fraud.

Fish fraud is done for financial gain, according to Dr Riley. Simply put, you aren't getting what you've paid for - the consumer is being misled if not cheated.

One of the most common forms of fish fraud is species substitution. You might, for instance, buy a product marked as 'wild Atlantic smoked salmon' but actually what you're getting is salmon from fish farms. Or the cod in your Friday night 'cod and chips' might actually be catfish, it transpires.

But that's not the only way you might be diddled, the report found. Addition of water binding chemicals means you could be paying for water, not fish. Over-breading and over-glazing could see you paying for breadcrumb or ice rather than seafood. 

Here is the UK, around 5% of fish in retail and catering may be fraudulent, says Dr Riley, and is especially prevalent with high valued species like peeled shrimps and scallops.

Read the labels and check the net weight so you can see what you're buying if you want to avoid paying for water, ice or bread, Dr Riley advises but what about species substitution?

Mislabeling and species substitution is very difficult to identify even when it's attempted, which isn't as often as it should be, according to Dr Riley. Once head and skin of the fish are removed, only real experts can tell exactly the type of fish and it may take forensic techniques using DNA to reveal the fraud.

So how do you protect yourself from this kind of fish fraud? There is an easy fix, Dr Riley explains: buying fish from your fishmonger - nothing beats it.

Well, that's advice we'd certainly second. 

Click here to listen to the fish fraud clip from You and Yours, Radio 4 Friday 6th April.