The fish: what must be written on the labels


According to the law, three indications should appear on packaged and bulk fish products, explains to Altroconsumo the food worker Emanuela Bianchi.

  • the name of the fish species in Italian (for example, tuna);
  • the production method (fished or bred);
  • the origin : the country for the bred product, otherwise the place of fishing.
  • These rules apply to fresh or frozen fish, molluscs and crustaceans, whole or processed (turned into slices and fillets), but not for ready meals and canned products - for example canned tuna.

    Image Trapani wholesale fish market: a good label. |

    "On this issue, the latest Altroconsumo survey was in 2011 and showed that labels are often incomplete in local markets and by fishmongers, more rarely in supermarkets, " says Bianchi. In most cases the omissions concerned the place of origin and the specific bred / fished.

    INCOMPLETE NAMES. Furthermore, the seller does not always include the full name of the species sold, which can be obtained from the list established by an ad hoc law decree. "For example, the word" tuna ", he continues, " can refer only to the red type, otherwise it should specify yellow fin, Atlantic, etc. If an octopus comes from Mexico it must be added to the "Mexican" name: octopus alone is not enough. "Emblematic is the case of the Nile perch (Lates niloticus), a few years ago sold tout-court as perch.

    Image Behind the high consumption of shark meat there are also commercial frauds, which make pass emery pieces (Lamna nasus), a shark worth 2 euros per kg, for swordfish slices (Xiphias gladius), which the public can get at 20-25 euros per kg. |

    REPLACEMENTS. The most frequent detected frauds? Emery sold for dogfish, pangasius for grouper, haddock for cod. "But the seller is not always responsible, the fraud could be due to the supplier, " says Emanuela Bianchi. In these cases the consumer rarely has the opportunity to defend himself: it is difficult to go up the chain, but also to recognize a fillet from a slicer and even a fish thawed by a fresh one. All that remains is trust in the seller.

    For the fish served in restaurants the obligation to indicate the origin is not valid.

    To meet consumers who ask for more detailed information through the associations, the European Union has new rules in force since 13 December 2014 . The following must appear on the label:

  • the commercial name and the scientific name of the fish (it can avoid some frauds, like selling a fish for another with a similar name)
  • the precise indication of the place of fishing
  • the tools used for capture
  • any thawing
  • The current wording of the production method remains unchanged (fished at sea, in freshwater or farmed).

    Image Fishing: the map of Fao areas. |

    Currently the labels provide for the indication of the member country or third country of origin for the products caught in fresh water and for those of breeding. For the catch, instead, the indication is in code, with the right to indicate the catching area with more precision (for example: Tyrrhenian Sea, FAO Zone No. 37). Here are the matches (the mandatory part in bold):

    FAO area n. 21, North-West Atlantic Ocean

    FAO area n. 27; 27.III.d, North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea

    FAO area n. 31, west-central Atlantic Ocean

    FAO area n. 34, Central-Eastern Atlantic Ocean

    FAO area n. 41, south-western Atlantic Ocean

    FAO area n. 47, south-east Atlantic ocean

    FAO area n. 37.1; 37.2; 37.3; 37.4, Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea

    FAO area n. 51; 57, Indian Ocean

    FAO area n. 61; 67; 71; 77; 81; 87, Pacific Ocean

    FAO area n. 48; 58; 88, Antarctic ocean