Oceana carried out DNA testing on 280 fish samples collected from major restaurants and EU institution canteens in Brussels. Tests focused on commonly served fish species like cod, sole and bluefin tuna.
The samples, which were analysed by the Laboratory of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics from the Catholic University of Leuven, found 31.8% clear cases of mislabelling based on information gathered from either the menu or from restaurant staff. More than 77% per cent of samples were taken from popular restaurants in the EU district and the city centre.
The results indicate that there is widespread mislabelling in Brussels. There is 95% fraud when it comes to bluefin tuna which is normally substituted by cheaper and more common yellowfin tuna in 72% of cases and the overfished bigeye tuna in 22% of cases.
There was 11% fraud in the case of sole and 13% fraud in the case of cod.
Oceana said that most commercial fish legislations in EU Member States including Belgium, authorise several species of tuna to be sold under the same name ‘tuna’ despite up to a 40% price difference between species. This ambiguity creates an incentive to substitute the species and deceive consumers.
In sushi restaurants, a 54.5% level of fraud was found (out of 21 samples) mainly due to the cokmon substitution of bluefin tuna by other cheaper tropical tuna species. In touristic fish restaurants, fraud affected all species covered by the study in 28.7% of cases.
Oceana said that negligent mislabelling was widespread across Brussels. It noted that fish labelling was too simplistic. According to Oceana, many restaurant managers or owners take deliberate advantage of the system by selling the wrong fish with the intention of financial gain through consumer deception.
Oceana had the following tips for consumers:
Know the fish you eat by showing a real interest and trying to learn more about what kind of fish it is, where and how was it caught and whether it is sustainable or legal.
Check prices. If an item is sold at a price that is too good to be true, it is likely to be a case of fraud.