Australia creates flake group name

Published on
May 2, 2014

The Australian Fish Names Committee this week created a new group name, flake, that includes only two shark species. According to the committee, this new group will eliminate confusion and mislabeling in the marketplace.

“Flake has been a ‘catch all’ term that describes all shark meat in Australia. The committee estimates that as many as 100 different species are sold each year in Australia under the catch-all term ‘flake’,” according to a statement provided to SeafoodSource by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, which operates the Fish Names Committee.

The new rule deems that only Gummy shark (Mustelus antarcticus) and Rig (Mustelus lenticulatus) can be sold or marketed in Australia as flake. The name, flake, only applies to fish flesh sold in the Australian marketplace. The whole animal will continue to be referred to under its specific fish name, Gummy Shark and Rig.

The flake and shark name confusion has concerned the seafood industry in Australia for quite awhile. In fact, it took the Fish Names Committee more than 12 months to make its decision, after it received 200 comments on the issue.

“The large range of species that are being sold under this generic category is the real concern. From a food safety and traceability point of view, this is an untenable situation, Roy Palmer, chair of the Fish Names Committee, told SeafoodSource. “In this day and age, consumers want to know what they are buying [and] harvesters have the right of having their species correctly marketed.”

Seafood industry members told the Fish Names Committee that sharks such as Bronze Whaler, Grey Nurse, Copper Shark, Black Tip Shark and Lemon Shark — some of which are on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List — have been mislabeled as flake.
“For retailers or restaurants that are concerned about selling species that are deemed not sustainable, incorrect labeling is a real issue. They may be buying a species they do not want to sell, or [this] provides them a way of selling a product that is not deemed sustainable without consumers knowing,” FRDC said.

The new flake group name is a voluntary standard that is not mandated under the country’s Food Standards Code. However, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) can take action against companies for misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to seafood mislabeling.

The Seafood Importers Association of Australasia are supporters of the Standard and actively engage in the process, FRDC noted.

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