Supermarkets' misleading fishy claims

mackrelCathal McNaughton/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Which? has warned that the claims that supermarkets are making about their fish are at best pointless, and at their worst actively misleading.

So what are the dodgy phrases to watch out for, and which supermarkets are making fewest fishy claims?

Unhelpful labeling

Which? said that three quarters of fish-eaters in the UK are concerned about how and where their fish is caught, as they are making an effort to eat food that has a less damaging effect on the environment.

However, it warns that some of the supermarket groups are using unhelpful labeling, that could easily mislead shoppers. In some instances it adds information which isn't needed. So, for example, the claim that tuna is 'dolphin friendly' is usually worthless, because most tuna sold in UK supermarkets is skipjack tuna, which doesn't swim in the same waters as dolphins.

Missing information

Meanwhile, in other instances, vital information is omitted. Pre-packed supermarket cod comes from the North East Atlantic, but this is a large area, with very different conditions in different areas.

So, for example, the North Sea is over-fished and has restrictions in place, so shoppers may choose to limit the fish they eat from these areas. Unfortunately many supermarkets, including Morrisons, Asda and Lidl don't make it clear where in the North Atlantic the fish has been caught. Similarly, many tins of tuna do not state how the fish is caught - whether by more sustainable pole and line methods or by net.

Best supermarkets

Separately, the Marine Conservation Society's research has awarded Marks & Spencer and the Co-operative with a "Gold" medal standard, with Sainsbury's and Waitrose picking up "Silver". None of the other major supermarkets reached a level that merited an award, and some refused to take part in the research at all.

It rates Co-Op and Morrisons as the strongest for labeling - with Sainsbury's close behind. Meanwhile, Co-Op, M&S and Waitrose scored highly for actual sales of sustainable produced fish.

More to do

Which? concluded that things had improved since the last report on the sector, two years ago, but there was still a long way to go. It said: "Which? would like retailers and brands to use consistent and reliable certification schemes, such as the Marine Stewardship Council and the recently launched Aquaculture Stewardship Council scheme for farmed fish, to help shoppers recognise sustainable products at a glance."

The supermarkets responded that they were dealing with the concerns raised, and were committed to accurate labeling.

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