Heavy fines for fish substitution

Wednesday, 06 October, 2004

Companies that deliberately or accidentally dupe seafood consumers by selling them the wrong species of fish could be hit with hefty new fines as part of a state government crackdown.

The practice, known as fish substitution, is a sad reality, despite the majority of legitimate operators doing the right thing.

This crackdown will be the fist major campaign run by the new NSW Food Authority, which was formed in April when the state government merged SafeFood NSW with the food regulatory functions of NSW Health.

Fines of up to $55,000 for individuals and $275,000 for corporations now apply under the Food Act 2003, which began on 23 February 2004.

The Authority will also embark on an industry-wide education program to help stamp out the practice.

This issue is a priority because at best, fish substitution is a rip-off for the consumer and at worst, it can put human health at risk.

The issue has been highlighted in a survey released today by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), titled 'A pilot survey on the identity of fish species as sold through food outlets in Australia'.

The survey targeted samples of fish labelled as barramundi, red emperor and West Australian dhufish (WA only). Australia-wide, it found that up to a quarter of fish, on average, were not the species they were supposed to be.

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