Fishy business in EU canteens exposed

Seafood at Berlaymont canteen {Georgi Gotev]

Restaurants in Brussels are cheating customers by substituting cheaper fish in one out of three dishes, including under the noses of eurocrats in the European Union’s own canteens, campaigners said yesterday (3 November).

From cod that is actually hake and expensive bluefin tuna that is actually yellowfin tuna, an undercover probe by sealife group Oceana found there was “widespread fraud” in eateries in the European capital.

It said that 31.8 percent of 280 fish samples taken from 150 restaurants in the tourist and EU areas of Brussels were found to have been mislabelled following DNA tests.

And in the canteens of the European Commission and European Parliament, where European officials, many of them who set fisheries policies, regularly dine, the figure rose to 38 percent.

“It’s just total chaos,” Lasse Gustavsson, Oceana’s executive director, told a press conference to announce the results. “The EU needs to clean up its fishy business, take responsibility and urgently improve traceability and labelling of seafood.”

He said the mislabelling opened the door to health risks for customers, and to illegal fishing.

European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said the executive of the 28-nation EU would contact the three companies that provide food for the canteens.

“This is the food we are eating. Definitely we are taking this very seriously. We will be in touch with the three companies concerned,” Winterstein told reporters.

In the worst case, Oceana said the expensive and rare bluefin tuna was substituted 95% of the time by the more common and cheaper yellowfin tuna or the overfished bigeye tuna.

Cod was replaced 13% of the time by up to 10 different species, mainly pangasius, saithe and hake, according to the tests carried out by the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, Oceana said.

Sole was substituted 11% of the time by other cheaper flatfish species.

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