Actors in Ireland’s seafood supply chain must track traceability, the country’s food-safety agency warned on Wednesday after finding nearly one in five fish products labeled incorrectly.

“If consumers want to buy a piece of cod, it should be a piece of cod they are buying, and not some other fish,” said Alan Reilly, chief executive at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

In the first comprehensive labeling study of fish products on sale in Ireland, the FSAI analysis found 20 samples (out of 111) sold with a cod label in fact contained a totally different, and cheaper, species. Indeed, in total 21 samples (19 percent) were found to be mislabeled, 17 of which contained pollock or smelt.

“This activity can be viewed as food businesses increasing their own profit margins by misleading consumers,” said Reilly, adding that businesses are failing to maintain appropriate traceability records.

And in a direct reaction to the survey findings, Reilly announced the introduction of an annual seafood-sampling and analysis program together with Ireland’s Health Service Executive.

The FSAI analysis used genetic analysis to identify the species, dipping into samples from retail outlets, fish shops, hotels, pubs, restaurants and takeaways. The latter represented the largest segment of non-compliance, with 32 percent of takeaways found to be selling mislabeled seafood products.

In terms of enforcement action, the agency said non-compliant businesses were revisited by environmental health officers, issued verbal warnings and notified that additional unannounced checks are to be expected.

A European pilot project, eTrace, is using radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging technology to track fish in the European market. As traceability tools move to center stage for the global seafood industry, the thrust of the project is to test the feasibility of using an electronic product code standard called EPCIS in the seafood supply chain.


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