The deliberate mislabeling of seafood has the potential to damage an industry valued for its quality and sustainability. Recent press coverage of this issue in the U.K. has raised concerns that weakly enforced supply-chain safety rules and rogue suppliers could have a negative effect on consumer trust, something that would have a direct impact on restaurant sales.
The U.K. press coverage has focused on a recent research project, led by Dr. Stefano Mariani from the University of Salford in the U.K., and was published in the peer-reviewed Fish and Fisheries journal. Scientists tested 226 cod products purchased from retailers and restaurant suppliers from Ireland and the U.K., which were genetically identified using a DNA barcoding technique. The results were then compared against product labels.
The study reported that 7.4 percent of cod products in the U.K. were mislabeled. A BBC article published the results, which were picked up by other news outlets.
Mariani is, however, quick to puncture the idea that his study has uncovered a labelling “scandal.” He points out that a mislabeling rate of 7 percent is far lower than in many other countries. “I think the producer tries to spend as little as possible and maximize gains,” explains Mariani.
“If there is a small window of opportunity to use something that is cheaper, and then sell it as something more expensive … I think that this is what is potentially happening.”