One-third of takeaways label fish incorrectly


NEARLY A third of Ireland’s chippers are codding customers and substituting cheaper fish for the more traditional ones so they can sell it at inflated prices, a survey has found.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland took cod and haddock samples from 111 retail outlets, fish shops, hotels, pubs, restaurants and takeaways across the State and found that 19 per cent had been labelled incorrectly.

The survey did not name any of the premises that had been caught out but it insisted it would be taking a tough line on offenders.

Twenty pieces of fish were found to have been wrongly labelled as cod while one was wrongly sold as smoked haddock, the survey found.

Takeaways were by far the worst offenders; 32 per cent were found to have wrongly labelled the fish they were selling either through ignorance or with a view to ripping consumers off, the authority said.

Non-compliant premises were revisited by environmental health officers, issued with verbal warnings and notified that further unannounced checks were to be expected, the authority said.

Smoked fish proved to be the most problematic area. The survey found that 73 per cent of smoked fish samples had been wrongly labelled compared with 13 per cent of unsmoked fish samples.

Authority chief executive Prof Alan Reilly said there was no food safety issue involved in the incorrect labelling but he expressed concern that cod, which is generally viewed as an expensive fish, had been found to contain less expensive varieties, thus raising concerns for consumers.

“This activity can be viewed as food businesses increasing their own profit margins by misleading consumers. The mislabelling of fish products, whether inadvertently or by design, is contrary to the rights and expectations of consumers under Irish and EU law.”

Prof Reilly added that food businesses which failed to keep appropriate traceability records or which were found to be intentionally misleading consumers through incorrect labelling would face enforcement action where appropriate.

“If a consumer wants to buy a piece of cod, it should be a piece of cod they are buying and not some other fish,” he said. “Food businesses need to be vigilant when taking in deliveries of fish, to ensure the type of fish they receive is what they actually ordered.

“As many white fish look similar, food businesses need to educate themselves so that they can differentiate species.”

Ireland East MEP Mairéad McGuinness also expressed concern about the findings. “The high level of irregularity clearly means that consumers are being misled,” she said. “It points to an attempt by sellers to profit on the back of inaccurate information.”