Supermarkets misleading consumers on the labeling of fish

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ClientEarth, the environmental law organization, says that major retailers in the UK are misleading customers over the labeling of fish.

The organization inspected the labeling by major supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, The Co-operative, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, and Waitrose, and in their subsequent report, they say that labels, such as 'sustainably sourced'; 'protects the marine environment'; and 'responsibly farmed' were misleading or unverified on 32 products out of 100 examined.

'Dolphin friendly' labels featured on tinned tuna they say can be misleading as there is no mention of the harmful effects the tuna fishing method used may have on other threatened species such as turtles and sharks.

ClientEarth CEO, James Thornton, said: "It would be shocking to find out that the free-range chicken you bought was actually battery farmed.

"Discovering the fish you're eating, which is labeled as responsible or environmentally friendly, actually led to the deaths of threatened species also leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

"Consumers need to be able to trust labels but in reality claims such as 'sustainably sourced' or 'responsibly farmed' are often misleading.

"We would like all supermarkets that have the misleading claims on the products we've identified to remove them as soon as possible or to prove them with evidence."

ClientEarth is calling for EU regulation for fish labeling and for uniform standards on sustainability claims.

They say that while many supermarkets are taking measures to ensure that their fish is well caught, and farmed, they apply different criteria in their decision-making, which makes choosing truly sustainable fish products difficult for consumers.

This report adds to the topicality of sustainable fishing, highlighted this week in the TV series Fish Fight on Channel 4, fronted by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

ClientEarth, the Marine Conservation Society and Greenpeace are among the organizations backing the chef's campaign. The campaign seeks to highlight the issues of sustainable fishing, in particular the issue of discards, and to influence the reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.

Sainsbury's recently released a statement that all their tuna is already line-caught and any that so far is not, in the ingredients of this or that product, will be so in the very near future. Let us truly hope so.

© 2011