Fishy business: Mislabelled seafood rampant in Spain

SPANISH consumers have been warned about seafood fraud.

The widespread con involves scammers swapping expensive products for cheaper alternatives.

And a new report by the national Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition (Aecosan), has alerted restaurant-goers to the particular dangers of eating escolar.

An inexpensive but tasty fish, escolar is fraudulently being sold as tuna, white tuna, butterfish, cod or grouper in eateries, with the practice especially rife in sushi restaurants.

Nicknamed the ‘ex-lax’ fish or ‘laxative of the sea’ in the industry, it is considered dangerous enough to be banned in Japan and Italy.

Eating the buttery flesh can cause keriorrhea, a form of fish poisoning with symptoms ranging from stomach cramps to severe diarrhoea and vomiting.

Its sale is legal in Spain, and the Aecosan factsheet features a series of recommendations for seafood lovers since the fish “contains a fat composed of waxy esters that humans are unable to digest.”

These include removing as much fat from the flesh as possible, especially the skin, never eating it raw, and avoiding consumption of cooking juices when it is pan-fried.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with immunodeficiency or similar ailments should avoid it entirely.

But the issue of misidentification remains, with some experts recommending that shoppers should only buy fish with the head still on to avoid mishaps.

Seafood ranks number one in the global food fraud ranking, and a 2010-2013 study by conservation group Oceana which tested 114 tuna samples in the United States found that 84 per cent were mislabelled.

Matt Ford

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