Nice one, Food Standards Scotland.
What looked at first to be a number of cases of deliberate fraud was given some sensible attention and analysis by Food Standards Scotland (FSS), with unexpected results. The organisation surveyed fish products supplied to their public sector food outlets, including hospitals and schools, to get a snapshot of the degree of species mislabelling. Of the 264 samples tested, around 6% of those (15) were mislabelled.
Any mislabelling is a breach of trust and a breach of food laws, but a result of 6% is relatively low and not likely to have a large economic impact. Nevertheless, FSS investigated each of the incidences, retested products and spoke to the suppliers directly.
Product labelled as haddock was the type most often found have been mislabelled during the survey, with ‘haddock’ found to be another fish species in 8 of 50 samples (16%). As you would expect when considering fish species fraud, the most common substitute for haddock was a cheaper fish, whiting, the two types of fillets having similar appearance, flavour and texture. Interestingly, however, almost half of all the ‘fraudulent’ samples were in fact an expensive fish (haddock) mislabelled as a cheaper species (whiting or coley). Those results are obviously not ones you would expect to find when investigating fish fraud, and they are unlikely to be the result of any deliberate attempt to gain an economic advantage.
To the credit of the FSS they uncovered the cause of the mislabelling for most of the incidences; suppliers of the mislabelled fish admitted that they sometimes had trouble identifying incoming block fillets. Some also admitted that they were not adequately separating or labelling different fish species during processing, handling and packing operations. The suppliers in question have implemented improvements and have requested better labelling of their suppliers to prevent future occurrences; good news for the Scottish seafood industry.