Photo attributed to Mrmcdonnell at English Wikipedia

Photo attributed to Mrmcdonnell at English Wikipedia.

Sushi-bar-coding in the UK: another kettle of fish

CRITICALLY-endangered species of fish are being sold in sushi restaurants in the UK without adequate labelling.

Overfished species of tuna and eel are among the sushi dishes being served up without adequate information to consumers, according to research published in the journal PeerJ.

An investigation by scientists in Exeter, Salford and Bristol to identify levels of mislabelling or ‘non-labelling’ on restaurant menus found evidence that the lax labelling practice in the UK’s service sector (compared to the retail sector) may have undesirable consequences.

Andrew Griffiths, lecturer in Biological Science at the University of Exeter commented:

“Consumers are getting more and more knowledgeable about what they purchase, but labelling in restaurants is often failing to keep up and provide information people want.”

They used DNA barcoding to screen samples of tuna, eel, and a variety of other products characterised by less visually distinctive ‘white flesh’ and found that 10% of seafood served was not correctly described on the menu.

Scientists investigated levels of seafood labelling accuracy in 31 sushi bars and restaurants across England.

Stefano Mariani, professor of conservation genetics at the University of Salford said: “The sale of rare fish species under generic terms such as ‘tuna’ or ‘eel’ hinders consumer choice with potentially damaging economic, health and environmental consequences.

“As consumers we are getting much better at demanding information in shops but we do not demand the same standards when eating out.”

A recent international study of retail sales that included researchers at the University of Exeter found 3.3% of fish was mislabelled in leading supermarkets.

Fraud levels were, however, significantly lower than that observed in previous studies in North America.

While seafood labels currently appear to be more effective in the European Union than in North America, it should be recognised that labelling accuracy also depends on the type of fish served; for instance, the term ‘snapper’ typically harbours much mislabelling but is not as popular in British sushi bars as it is in the USA.

Sushi-bar-coding in the UK: another kettle of fish

Sara G Vandamme, Andrew M Griffiths, Sasha-Ann Taylor, Cristina Di Muri, Elizabeth A Hankard, Jessica A Towne, Mhairi Watson, Stefano Mariani – published today in the open access journal PeerJ.

Date: 26 March 2016

Read more University News