Oceana calls on the European Commission to close fish labelling loophole in restaurants

Press Release Date: May 12, 2016

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

The European Parliament points at restaurants as the weak link of fish traceability.

Oceana is calling on the European Commission to carry-out a targeted EU-wide study on the mislabelling of fish in restaurants to clarify the magnitude of the problem, identify its origin in the supply chain, identify motives and reasons, and determine the most effective way to address it at the EU level.

Oceana applauds the adoption of a resolution on the traceability of fish products in restaurants by the European Parliament, a policy initiative by the chair of the Fisheries Committee MEP Alain Cadec. The resolution was created in response to Oceana’s 2015 report which revealed 1 in 3 fish sold in restaurants in Brussels is mislabelled. This wake-up call from the European Parliament urges the European Commission and Member States to tackle the widespread practice of the fraudulent mislabelling of fish across the EU, through strengthened controls and inspections, in particular in restaurants, and the adoption of DNA testing to help species identification.

“The fallout of our fish fraud investigation involving restaurants, caterers and EU institutions comes to a clear conclusion: restaurants are falling through the gaps of traceability rules,” states Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “A comprehensive traceability system for fish products, from boat to plate, is not only necessary to protect consumers, but it is crucial to guarantee the sustainability of our fishery policies in Europe, for instance by preventing illegal or unsafe fish to enter the market.”

While recent studies conducted in the European Union have seen lower levels of seafood substitutions for unprocessed fish, for instance those sold in supermarkets, other studies have revealed much higher levels of fraud in restaurants, principally as they are subject to fewer labelling rules. While fish consumers in supermarkets can easily and confidently find the scientific name, commercial name or information on catch area, restaurant customers are unable to make a similarly informed decision. In addition, national authorities often struggle to effectively inspect restaurants often due to reduced capacity or because of administrative limitations in their mandate to carry-out unannounced or mystery controls.

“Greater challenges lie outside the bounds of the mainstream retail sector; restaurants (including “takeaway” options) and other food services are subject to relatively fewer labeling regulations and to reduced enforcement”, concluded the EU project LABELFISH who conducted in 2015 the largest fish authenticity study to date.

Read more about Oceana’s work on seafood fraud