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Fish Labelling

Q. What legislation governs fish labelling? 

The labelling of fish at each stage of marketing is governed by Council Regulation (EC) No. 104/2000 on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products and Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2065/2001 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No. 104/2000 as regards informing consumers about fishery and aquaculture products.

Q. Has this legislation been transposed into Irish legislation? 

Yes. European Communities (Labelling of Fishery and Aquaculture Products) Regulations, 2003 (S.I. No. 320 of 2003) transposes these Regulations.

Q. What type of fish is covered by this legislation? 

‘Fish’ means raw fish to which no other ingredients (including additives, colourings, flavourings) except salt have been added and includes:

  • Live fish
  • Fresh, chilled and frozen fish
  • Fish fillets and other fish meat (whether minced or not)
  • Dried, salted or brined fish
  • Smoked fish (whether hot or cold smoked)
  • Crustaceans (except those which are both cooked and peeled)
  • Molluscs (except when cooked)

Fish that has been further processed (beyond simple slicing or mincing), preserved, treated or cooked are not covered by the Regulations e.g. tinned or canned sardines, salmon or tuna, pickled herrings, cooked mussels etc.

Q. Are products containing fish as an ingredient covered by the Regulations? 

No. Products containing fish as an ingredient e.g. sandwiches and sandwich fillings, fish fingers, battered fish fillets, seafood chowders etc. are outside the scope of the Regulations.

Q. Is smoked fish covered by the Regulations? 

Yes, except where ingredients other than those from the smoking process and salts are added e.g. sugar, pepper or dill.

Q. Do these Regulations apply to the catering trade? 

No. These Regulations only applies to retail sale i.e. sale from a fishmonger, shop or supermarket or other characteristically similar sale.

Q. Do these Regulations only apply to pre-packaged fish? 

No. The requirements of the Regulations apply to fish sold loose (e.g. from a fish counter) or in a pre-packaged form. The required customer information can therefore appear on the labelling of the package or on a counter label placed in close proximity to the fish to which it relates.

Q. What information must appear on the label for retail sale? 

There are three pieces of information which must be provided at the point of sale:

  • The commercial designation of the species of fish i.e. the name associated with the particular species of fish e.g. the commercial designation for Ghadus morhua is Cod.
  • The method of production e.g. caught at sea or in freshwater or produced (farmed) by aquaculture
  • The origin – for fish caught at sea the origin must be specified by reference to one of the 12 catch areas

Q. What must appear on the label for farmed fish (fish produced by aquaculture)? 

The label must state the commercial designation of the species. Commercial designations for Ireland are listed in the Schedule to S.I. No. 320 of 2003. A commercial designation laid down by another EU Member State in the same language and for the same species may also be used. Therefore, commercial designations listed in the Enlgish, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish legislation can be applied to labels.

The expressions ‘farmed’ or ‘cultivated’ must be used on the label for farmed fish. For example, rope grown mussels could be described as ‘Cultivated Irish Mussels’ or ‘Mussels, Cultivated in Ireland.’

The label must also state the Member State or Third Country as the origin.

Q. What must appear on the label for fish caught at sea or in fresh water? 

The label must state the commercial designation of the species. Commercial designations for Ireland are listed in the Schedule to S.I. No. 320 of 2003. A commercial designation laid down by another EU Member State in the same language and for the same species may also be used. Therefore, commercial designations listed in the Enlgish, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish legislation can be applied to labels.

For fish caught at sea the word ‘caught’ may be used to indicate the method of production.

For freshwater fish the expression ‘caught in freshwater’ must be used.

However, if it is obvious from the commercial designation and/or catch area that the fish were caught at sea then the method of production may be omitted e.g. cod may be described as ‘Cod. Caught in the North East Atlantic.’

The origin of the fish must also be provided. For fish caught at sea, the origin must be specified by reference to one of the 12 ‘catch areas’. These are:

 

North-West Atlantic    Central-Western Atlantic
North-East Atlantic (excluding the Baltic Sea) South-West Atlantic
Baltic Sea Indian Ocean
Central-Eastern Atlantic Pacific Ocean
South-East Atlantic Antarctic
Mediterranean Sea Black Sea

The legislation allows for a more precise geographic origin in terms of the catch or production area to be specified. This is not to the exclusion of the catch areas mentioned above which must still be used, for example cod may be described as “Irish Sea Cod” as long as NE Atlantic is indicated somewhere on the label too.

For freshwater fish or shellfish caught in an EU Member State or another country, then reference should be made to the Member State or other country e.g. ‘Irish Eel’ or ‘Scottish Perch’.

Q. What if a batch of fish contains fish from more than one Member State/Third Country or catch area? 

For a batch sourced from a number of countries or catch areas, the proper commercial designation must be applied along with an indication of the production method. The main catch area or country of origin must be specified along with an indication that some fish have come from other areas, for example “A mix of cod from the NE Atlantic, but also from other areas”

However, it is recommended that any other catch areas or countries are specifically named, for example “A mix of cod from the NE Atlantic and the NW Atlantic.”

Q. What if there is more than one species in a batch? 

If there is more than one species in a batch then the label must be representative of the product in the batch and detail the species present. That is the label must include the commercial name, production method and catch area for each and every species.

Q. What if the fish in a batch are a mixture of farmed and caught and from more than one Member State/Third Country and catch area? 

For batches produced by a variety of methods and from a number of countries or catch areas, the proper commercial designation must be applied along with an indication of the production method(s) used. The main catch area or country of origin must be specified along with an indication that some fish have come from other areas, for example “A mix of farmed and caught cod from the NE Atlantic, but also from other areas”

However, it is recommended that any other catch areas or countries are specifically named, for example “A mix of farmed and caught cod from the NE Atlantic and the NW Atlantic.”

As far as is practical, though, it is recommended that batches are composed in such a way that the fish comprising them originate from the same production method or catch area, and that this is clearly specified on the labelling. For further information see the FSAI Guidance Note No. 7 – The Labelling of Fish and Aquaculture Products according to the European Communities (Labelling, of Fishery and Aquaculture Products) Regulations, 2003 (S.I. No. 320 of 2003) Revision 1.

Q. What are the requirements for producers and wholesalers? 

The customer information i.e. commercial designation, method of production and origin, as well as the scientific name of the species, must be available at each stage of marketing of the product and passed along the supply chain. The ‘traceability information’ applies to all fish and shellfish to which the Regulations apply and includes all stages of marketing, from production through any intermediate marketing stages (e.g. from producer to wholesaler).

Last reviewed: 31/1/2013

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