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European Parliament News Item, 12 May 2016
A strong traceability system for all fishery products sold in EU restaurants and shops would help to prevent cases of mislabelling, said MEPs in a resolution approved on Thursday. A sound EU fish labelling policy would in turn boost consumer confidence and the economic development of the EU fishing industry, they added.
MEPs voice concern about various studies showing significant levels of mislabelling of fish products sold on the EU market and call on EU member states to step up national checks, including on non-processed fish supplied to restaurants and the catering sector, in order to tackle fraud and to identify the stage in the supply chain at which fish is mislabelled.
The non-legislative resolution was approved by a show of hands.
A strong traceability system
Parliament advocates creating a strong traceability system, from landing to consumption, which would give consumers confidence and strengthen the EU market. MEPs call on the European Commission to exploit the potential of DNA barcoding to help identify species
Parliament asks the Commission to assess the benefits of setting up an EU-wide labelling system which would need to ensure transparency and credibility of the certification process and provide understandable, verifiable and accurate information.
A sound European labelling policy in the fisheries sector would be a key factor in boosting the economic development of coastal communities, recognizing the best practices of fishermen and underlining the quality of their products supplied to consumers, says the text.
Existing confusions with EU fishing areas
Parliament calls on the Commission to remedy the confusion caused by the current EU labelling requirements, based on UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) areas and sub-areas, whereby fish caught off Galicia and the in Gulf of Cádiz are labelled as being from “Portuguese Waters” those caught off Wales as from the “Irish Sea” and those caught off Brittany as “Bay of Biscay”.
The Commission's 2015 EU control plan assessing the prevalence on the market of mislabelled white fish with regard to its declared species found that the declared species was confirmed in 94% of the samples taken. However, for certain species, non-compliance levels were very high. The rate of 6% is considered relatively low compared to the findings of other more limited studies in member states.
A recent NGO study revealed alarming cases of mislabelling of fish served in restaurants in Brussels. The study was based on DNA testing and the results showed that about one third of the tested fish are mislabelled.