Fish mislabelling common in South Africa

Barracuda schoolAlmost one in five fish samples from South African restaurants and shops are mislabelled, says a study which highlights the need for better traceability.

A genetic analysis study of nearly 150 fish samples taken from restaurants and retail outlets in three provinces in the country (KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng), found that 27 (18 per cent) were incorrectly described in terms of species.

The report in the journal Food Chemistry (15 October edition) shows there is a general need for improved labelling regulations, monitoring and enforcement, according to the authors from the University of Stellenbosch and World Wildlife Fund South Africa.

"Seafood mislabelling has been a persistent and widespread problem, apparently intensifying in synchrony with the ever-declining state of the world’s fish stocks," they write, noting that species such as barracuda, tuna and steenbras are particularly prone.

"A standard seafood naming list and enhanced traceability could reduce mislabelling," they suggest, adding that these will not however be sufficient without sufficient enforcement and legislation that imposes appropriate penalties for offenders.

While there seems to be some reduction in mislabelling compared to earlier surveys carried out in 2010 and 2012, they note the DNA barcoding results suggest it is still a big problem requiring correction.

Until such time as traceability regulations in SA is improved, the industry should consider incorporating traceability systems into their own company policies as this will "not only assist the management of supply chain and reputational risks, but will equip them in responding to emerging incidents through rapid and precise recalls."

Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Rich Carey

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