The Scotsman, 20 May 2013: Sainsbury’s admit ‘mislabelling’ Scottish salmon

Sainsbury’s admit ‘mislabelling’ Scottish salmon

Published on 20/05/2013 15:46


SUPERMARKET giant Sainsbury’s has admitted “an error” over the mislabelling of farmed Scottish salmon.

They made the confession after the Salmon and Trout Association (STA) filed a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards against the chain’s “erroneous claims” concerning the geographic origin of the fish.

The STA, which campaigns to protect wild fish stocks, claimed Sainsbury’s had misled the public on farmed salmon sold under its premium Taste The Difference brand.

Fish advertised as being from “fast-flowing seawater locations off the isles of Skye, Lewis and Uist”, were instead from Loch Fyne, in Argyll on the Scottish mainland.

This, the STA claims, is from “less fast-flowing waters” more prone to diseases such as sea lice.

A spokesman for the supermarket admitted: “Unfortunately, there has been an error in the information on the packaging of some our Taste the Difference salmon products in recent months.

“We are now resolving this and sincerely apologise to customers, who can be reassured that there has been no impact on our industry-leading sourcing standards.”

She added: “We are very proud of our record on responsible sourcing of fish.

“Sainsbury’s is the country’s largest retailer of RSPCA Freedom Food Salmon and all our Scottish Salmon is farmed to a number of independent standards.”

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to the STA Aquaculture Campaign, welcomed the admission by Sainsbury’s, and invited supermarket bosses to now “enter into a discussion about sourcing standards of farmed salmon”.

He said: “The STA’s complaint shows that it is time for the supermarkets to take responsibility for what they are selling and how they market it.

“This complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards is about Sainsbury’s and the claims made on its packaging and on its website.

“Quite apart from issues of identifying exactly where its farmed salmon comes from, the STA believes Sainsbury’s must substantiate its ‘responsible sourcing’ assertions with hard facts about named farms and not just general assurances.

“Without this, discerning consumers may not have confidence in what they are being asked to buy.”

He said: “It is good that they have obviously spotted an error in the geographic location of the fish farms.

“All the producers and supermarkets put a premium on salmon sourced from the Hebrides.

“These were marketed as being from fast-flowing seawaters off Skye, Lewis and Uist. But they were stamped as being from Loch Fyne, which has a reputation for sea lice.

“The problem with Loch Fyne is it is a narrow sea loch, and wild salmon and trout have a problem getting past these farms, which are prone to sea lice.”

He claimed sea-lice numbers on farmed fish in excess of industry thresholds, benthic pollution with sea-lice treatment chemicals in excess of Environmental Quality Standards, escapes of farmed fish, unsatisfactory organic pollution of the sea-bed with uneaten food and faeces and farmed salmonid diseases have all been recorded in Loch Fyne.

Mr Linley-Adams added: “Sainsbury’s are not alone in failing to come clean about their Scottish farmed salmon products.

“Claims by other supermarkets of salmon being ‘responsibly farmed’ or ‘responsibly sourced’ are vague and inadequate.

“The supermarkets clearly know there is an issue here – after all, we don’t see ‘responsibly farmed’ sweetcorn on tinned tomatoes on the supermarket shelves, do we?”

Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TA Scotland, said: “Supermarkets have a duty to be honest and transparent about the food they sell.

“Farmed salmon, grown in open-net marine cages, can come at a heavy environmental cost, not least in its impact on wild salmon and sea trout.

“We do not need ‘greenwash’ or vagueness here. We need hard data against which to judge these farms.

“For example, we believe that Sainsbury’s should now require all the farms from which it sources its farmed salmon – as a condition of supplying salmon to Sainsbury’s – to publish weekly farm-specific sea-lice parasite counts against which claims made by the fish-farmers can be properly assessed.”

The STA was established in 1903 to address the damage done to rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution.

It has worked to protect fisheries, fish stocks and the wider aquatic environment on behalf of game angling and fisheries.

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