Mislabelled Seafood on the Rise in Australia, Study Shows

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Recent research has revealed that almost 12% of seafood products in Australia need to be more accurately labelled, with specific species showing even higher mislabelling rates.

The Minderoo Foundation spearheaded the study, collecting and testing the DNA of 672 seafood samples from supermarkets and restaurants nationwide. The results were startling. While 11.8% of all seafood was mislabelled, specific species such as shark and snapper were misrepresented at alarmingly high rates of 35.9% and 25.2%, respectively.

“We selected seafood products which consumers tend to buy more of — hoki, prawns, shark, snapper, squid and tuna,” said Emily Harrison, ocean policy manager at the Minderoo Foundation,

Moreover, while some products were labelled accurately, they were ambiguously described, leaving consumers needing clarification about their purchase. For instance, a product labelled as ‘shark’ might be a ‘smooth hammerhead’, a species classified as vulnerable.

A pressing concern highlighted by the research is that 70% of the seafood consumed in Australia is imported, but there needs to be more detailed labelling information to guide consumers. This absence of clarity becomes even more significant given that other major markets like the European Union, the United States, and Japan have stricter documentation requirements for imported fish.

Ms Harrison from the Minderoo Foundation emphasised the importance of stronger labelling laws, urging consumers to inquire more about their seafood purchases. “If it’s super vague labelling, like ‘catch of the day’, push back on the vendor to ask what the species is, where it was from, and also where it was caught?” she suggested.

In response to the findings, the Chief Executive of the WA Fishing Industry Council, Darryl Hocking, expressed his belief in the integrity of locally caught fish labelling. Still, he strongly advocated for more stringent country-of-origin labelling laws, highlighting concerns about labelling imported fish as local products.

The study also underscores a broader industry issue: fish substitution. Trenton Brennan, a fishmonger in Albany, mentioned the frequent occurrences of fish substitution in establishments like cafes, restaurants, and fish and chip shops.

Given the revelations, consumers are being encouraged to demand transparency in seafood labelling, ensuring they receive what they pay for.

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