When “fresh” seafood isn’t so fresh

Original photo credit: flickr user timquijano CC BY 2.0

What: “Fresh” Atlantic mackerel…or is it? (Also, tuna, cod, and haddock)

Where: According to the London Times and reported by Global Food Mate, supermarkets in east London, United Kingdom, are selling mackerel and other fish labeled as fresh that may actually have been frozen for almost a year.

How: The London supermarket Stainsbury’s carried Atlantic mackerel that was being marketed as fresh, but the details didn’t add up. The Atlantic mackerel fishery lost its Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accreditation in March of this year. The blue MSC label indicates that the fish sold comes from a sustainable fishery according to MSC’s set of standards. The mackerel at Stainsbury’s carried the MSC label, and therefore must have been caught prior to March. A small sign next to the iced mackerel indicated in fine print that it was “previously frozen”. Fillets from six other species, such as tuna, cod, and haddock, were labeled “may have been previously frozen,” but consumers were not given information as to how long.

The Story: Frozen seafood being sold as fresh seafood is also a problem here in the United States. Due to short seasons in some fisheries, fishing companies often freeze their catch in huge warehouses and sell it to retailers when there is demand. Retailers may then keep this fish frozen for weeks or months before it is thawed and sold to consumers. Fish from other countries may also travel quite a distance from the fishing grounds to our local supermarkets and dinner tables and must be frozen as it is transported. In fact, fish from overseas (especially Asia) is often treated with carbon monoxide, a gas that prevents the fish from discoloring as it ages and keeps it looking fresh once it is thawed. It is illegal in the European Union, Canada, Japan, and Singapore to sell fish treated with carbon monoxide, but perfectly acceptable here. Nothing against frozen fish; as long as consumers are not led to believe that it’s fresh.

What We Can Do: We need a system of seafood traceability that will tell us what fish we are eating, where it comes from, and when it was caught. Until then, educate yourself about local fishing seasons, and buy fresh, local seafood when available.

2 thoughts on “When “fresh” seafood isn’t so fresh

  1. Excellent article on why not to buy from the supermarkets.
    Supporting your local fishmongers is vital and you can always guarantee that the fish is fresh.
    J.Pieroni and Sons like may local fishmongers offer fresh fish caught from all across Scotland and the UK, and import seafood from across the world on a daily basis. We supply a wide range, or as we like to say, “If it swims, we sell it.”
    Support you local fishmonger.

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