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How to buy good fish for Christmas? Trade Inspection Authority audit

< previous | next > 13.12.2017

How to buy good fish for Christmas? Trade Inspection Authority audit
  • The Trade Inspection Authority checked the quality of fish, seafood and products made from them.
  • It identified irregularities in over 70 per cent of stores and warehouses.
  • The biggest number of objections concerned frozen fish.

The Christmas table without herring, carp or salmon would be incomplete. The problem is how to buy good fish. Should we choose fresh, frozen or marinated fish? At the UOKIK’s request, the Trade Inspection Authority conducted a control which identified plenty of irregularities at stores - from an excessively thick layer of glaze (ice) in frozen fish, through numerous yellow discolourations, fins left and finally products past their sell-by date. Furthermore, in numerous cases consumers are misled, or do not receive basic information. The inspection was conducted in the 2nd quarter of 2017.

The inspectors checked 1,020 batches of fish and fish products with the total value of PLN 383.8 thousand.  They visited 161 stores (including 59 ones owned by retail networks) and warehouses throughout Poland. First of all, they checked the places about which complaints had been made. They examined both the quality and labelling of frozen, fresh and smoked fish, as well as tinned and marinated fish and seafood. They found irregularities at as many as 117 places (72.7%), and questioned 391 product batches (38.6%).

The biggest number of irregularities were identified in frozen fish, in particular those in glaze, i.e. ice layer. The inspectors had different objections to as much as 64.5% of the batches (169 out of 262). Due to their quality 43 batches were questioned. Reasons? The tests at the UOKiK labs showed that the ice content was frequently bigger than the manufacturer declared on the packaging, e.g. 43.3% instead of 35% or 42% instead of 30%. Consequently, consumers bought less fish, even though they paid for a bigger amount. The appearance, smell and taste of frozen products left a lot to be desired.

Examples:

  • frozen Norwegian salmon in glaze was excessively dried off, had intense yellow discolourations, as well as slightly smelt and tasted of fish oil,
  • frozen pollock filets were slimy after defrosting, and after the preparation they were spongy and disintegrated,
  • rockcod carcass was improperly flayed - fins and internal organs, e.g. gonads, were left.

There were also numerous objections about fresh fish (52% of the batches were questioned), frozen seafood (irregularities in 43.5%) and smoked fish (discrepancy in 37.3% of the batches). Against this background, tinned and marinated fish looked quite good (approximately 20% was questioned respectively), but on a few occasions they
e.g. included too little fish or protein or too much saccharine than the amount declared on the packaging.

The Trade Inspection Authority also identified numerous fish labelling irregularities. Consequently, it questioned nearly half (49.3%) of the products sold by weight. At stands, basic information was missing - e.g. about the manufacturer, catch area, ingredients - including allergens (e.g. in the case of breaded fish), glaze layer. What is more, customers were sometimes misled, e.g. cheaper yellowfin sole was sold as more expensive common sole, whereas saithe was sold as cod filets.

At 12 stores the inspectors found 21 batches of products past the sell-by date – from 1 to as many as 18 months. They included smoked and frozen fish, fish salads, fried cod chops, as well as tinned and marinated fish. They were immediately withdrawn from the stores.

The inspection resulted in 12 tickets (in total, PLN 2.2 thousand) and 67 decisions about fines (in total, PLN 91.7 thousand). Furthermore, the Trade Inspection Authority informed province agricultural and food quality authorities as well as health and safety supervision authorities about the irregularities.

How to buy fish?

1.    Take a close look at fresh fish. It should have transparent mucus, protruding, shiny eyes and bright gills.

2.    The less glaze in a frozen product, the better. Just 5% of the ice layer is sufficient for protecting the fish from going bad. For this reason, avoid products which have more than 10% of glaze, as they lose weight after defrosting.

3.    Check the ingredients on the packaging or label. Sometimes phosphorus compounds are added to frozen fish in order to bind water. Consequently, you buy fish which has less meat tissue.

4.    Remember that escolar and oilfish, offered as “butterfish”, contain waxes which may lead to stomach complaints. For this reason, these specious may not be sold by weight, and on the packaging there is information on the methods of their preparation and risk of health problems.

5.    Make sure that fish is not past the sell-by date. Also pay attention to their storage conditions - is it e.g. outside the fridge.

6.    On the packaging or label, also look for such information as the Polish and Latin name, manufacturing method (caught in the sea or reared) and catch area. More on compulsory fish labelling can be found in the European Commission’s pocket guide.

7.    Any doubts? Contact the Trade Inspection Authority.

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office 
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warsaw
Phone: 695 902 088
E-mail: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]

Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

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