The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has published a report describing the results of a DNA survey on MSC certified fish from 16 countries.
Businesses that handle MSC certified sustainable seafood are required to comply with the MSC Chain of Custody Standard to ensure that they have effective traceability systems in place. This helps to ensure that the consumer receives fish that are from sustainable fisheries, as promised by the MSC sustainable seafood label. MSC conducts a survey every two years to verify the effectiveness of the standard and to ensure that distributors, processors and retailers trading in MSC certified sustainable seafood are complying with the standard.
The results of the latest survey are really positive. The MSC sampled fish and fish products carrying the blue MSC certified label from 16 countries. Of the 256 samples tested, only one of those was identified as being mislabelled. Upon further investigation MSC found that the mislabelled ‘Southern rock sole’ was in fact ‘Northern rock sole’; it was an accidental misidentification of two closely related species, rather than a deliberate fraud. So it seems that the MSC Chain of Custody Standard is working really well across the world.
Interestingly, the final pages of the report include a discussion about how the results compare with similar surveys conducted by other organisations. Those other surveys included species testing of many fish types, within many countries, mostly from retail outlets. The levels of mislabelled fish species were generally low in Europe, with more than 90% being of the samples being accurately labelled. The only countries that had less than 70% accuracy were Belgium, USA, South Africa and Canada. Sadly, the Canadian results were the poorest, with less than 60% of samples in that survey being accurately labelled. The Canadian results were also the oldest, being from 2011, with most of the European results from 2015. Perhaps seafood labelling in Canada has improved in the last five years, just as it has in Europe.