Fishy findings in chip shop tests

Which?’s latest round of food testing, as part of the Stop Food Fraud campaign, has revealed around one in six of the fish samples we bought from chip shops was not what we’d ordered.

We tested 45 samples of fish labelled cod or haddock bought from random fish and chip shops in Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. We found around one in six (16%) were mislabelled, with some of the samples being substituted for cheaper fish.

In Glasgow, five of the 15 samples of haddock tested were found to be whiting, which is similar to haddock but usually cheaper. Two of the 15 samples of cod tested in Manchester were found to be haddock.

The results come just five months after we tested lamb takeaways and found 40% had been contaminated with other meats, and some contained no lamb at all.

Following the publication of the Elliott Review in to the horsemeat scandal last week, half (49%) of consumers who buy takeaways said they aren’t confident that the food they buy is correctly described and contains the ingredients stated.

Which? wants the Government to quickly implement all of the recommendations from the Elliott Review including setting up a new food crime unit within the Food Standards Agency, ensuring a more co-ordinated approach to food testing and industry checks are improved.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“It’s unacceptable that people are being misled and that the food they have ordered is not what they’re told it is.

“Consumers need to feel confident in the food they buy so it’s good that the Government has committed to implementing the findings of the recent Elliott Review. It’s in the interests of responsible food businesses, as well as consumers, to make sure there are effective controls in place and a zero tolerance approach to food crime.”

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security, said:

“It has been known for quite some time fish fraud is very common and species substitution is always high on the list of causes. It is clear the catering industry in the UK has a long way to go to ensure that what consumers get what they are paying for. They must work to ensure that such fraud is prevented by tightening their audits and testing regime, two of the key pillars of food integrity I referred to in my report to government.”

Notes to editors

  1. We bought 45 samples of fish that were described as either cod or haddock from fish and chip shops in Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. We tested the samples to find out if they had been accurately labelled.

    Fish labelled correctly

    Fish labelled incorrectly

    DNA results

    Birmingham – 15 cod samples



    Glasgow – 15 haddock samples



    Whiting instead of haddock

    Manchester – 15 cod samples



    Haddock instead of cod

  2. In April this year we tested 60 lamb takeaways from Birmingham and London as part of our Stop Food Fraud campaign. See the press release with the results from the investigation here.
  3. Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 2,106 UK adults online between 5th and 7th September 2014. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults.

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