UK supermarkets need to ‘enhance traceability’

Published on
February 5, 2014

While some United Kingdom supermarkets have improved their seafood sustainability efforts, they need to enhance their traceability and farmed fish feed measures, according to a new report.

“The best retailers are asking lots of questions of their supply chain. They want to know about the source of their seafood,” Samuel Stone, fisheries officer for the charity Marine Conservation Society (MCS), told SeafoodSource. “We would like to see these efforts increased. It would be good to see DNA checks become standard practice, particularly for some high risk products.”

Because of “high risk” seafood items entering the U.K. supply chain — such as illegal, unreported seafood — retailers must be more vigilant than ever on traceability. “What’s needed in the supply chain are the three T’s: trust, transparency and traceability, to make sure that seafood doesn’t have its own ‘horsemeat’ scandal to deal with,” Stone said.

Meanwhile, the grocery chains that ranked highest in MCS’s biennial Supermarket Survey are Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer, which tied for first, followed by the Co-operative and Waitrose.

Tesco, which has the highest market share of seafood in the U.K., declined to take part in the survey, along with Aldi, Asda, Lidl, and Spar.

“Sainsbury now has the best seafood policy in place, great consumer information, and a very good proportion of seafood that is certified or rated well by MCS. In addition, Sainsbury’s policies seem to be employed by the retailer,” Stone said.

Marks & Spencer also has very strong sustainable seafood policies in place and 100 percent of the seafood products they sell are their own brands, according to MCS.  “We saw a lot of improvement in their proportion of [MCS’s] Fish to Eat list,” Stone said.

The top three retailers in MCS’s Supermarket Survey do not carry any seafood from the organization’s “Fish to Avoid ” list, except in one or two cases in which they are working on fishery improvement projects.

The top retailers have also invested in many improvement projects, for both wild and farmed fisheries. “It is something we are encouraging all the retailers to do,” Stone said.

The proportion of selling “Fish to Eat” versus “Fish to Avoid” ranking decreased significantly for Morrisons, which was “disappointing,” according to Stone. Overall sustainable seafood rankings also declined for Iceland and Booths, which are selling “far too much” seafood from the Fish to Avoid list, according to MCS.

Meanwhile, MCS says it will be asking retailers to ensure that its farmed seafood suppliers use responsibly sourced feed for all species. “With so much fish being imported, our retailers have to ensure the use of responsible feed for all farmed fish, as well as encouraging the use of a wide range of feed ingredients for all species,” said Dawn Purchase, senior aquaculture officer for MCS.

Contributing Editor

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