Is this really cod and chips?

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How sure are you that the smoked, breaded or battered cod on your plate is actually cod? Can you be sure it's not the less expensive pollack, saithe, greater argentine or whiting?

If you live in Ireland you have the most reason to be suspicious as a new study reveals that a substantial 28% of cod products in Ireland are mislabelled, comparable to 7% in the UK.

PFK reported on similar research in 2010 from the team that carried out this latest study, which also used a DNA barcoding technique.

Scientists from University College Dublin, genetically identified 226 cod products from supermarkets, fishmongers and take-away outlets from Ireland and the UK.  Results were then compared against product labels.

"37 of the 131 cod products purchased in Ireland, and seven of the 95 purchased in the UK were shown to be mislabelled," says Dr Stefano Mariani, leader of the research team.

"We found mislabelled cod products in each type of outlet, and identified that most of the mislabelled cod products were actually less expensive fish species substituted for cod and sold to consumers at a price premium," he says.

Demand for cod is high across Ireland and UK, and it remains the most popular whitefish, despite that local Atlantic cod stocks are largely depleted, and most cod is now imported.

88.6% of mislabelled cod products were smoked, breaded or battered, the processes of which can conceal the appearance, smell and taste of a fillet.

The mislabelling doesn’t stop there explains Dr Mariani: "We also uncovered a more subtle form of mislabelling where cod products were mislabelled to specifically match a demand for more sustainable seafood choices".

"By genetically testing cod products samples purchased from supermarkets we found threatened Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) mislabelled and sold as 'sustainably sourced' Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)," says Dana Miller, the lead author who completed the study as part of her PhD at University College Dublin.

"All of the cod products mislabelled as 'sustainably sourced' Pacific cod were purchased from a single supermarket chain that operates in both Ireland and the UK."

But, says Dr Mariani: “...there are strong indications that the mislabelling is taking place at supplier and retailer level”.

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