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Restaurants ‘getting away with fish fraud’ experts claim

Restaurants have been “getting away” with passing off catfish as cod due to the seafood testing being intelligence-led, experts have claimed.

The term “fish fraud” describes the passing off or mislabelling of seafood products as a more expensive type to boost margins. In 2017, seven of 91 samples sent to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) were a cheaper substitute for the product they claimed to be. The number of samples tested is much lower than the 665 meat products tested by the FSA.

According to the FSA local authorities “are responsible for developing and implementing their food sampling policy”. The FSA says findings are recorded in the UK Food Surveillance System, a central database used to collect food test results and monitor food industry trends.

Stefano Mariani, professor of conservation genetics at the University of Salford, said testing was largely intelligence-led meaning restaurants could “get away with it”. Mariani said: “In general there’s very little testing for authenticity and traceability – at county level they may decide other tests, for instance testing for potentially harmful bacteria, is more important.

“No step of the supply chain is completely free [from risk of foul-play], that’s why it’s very important to invest in control, traceability and other means to minimise this problem.”

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