Red faces in EU restaurants

THE usually conservation conscious EU officials who believe they dine out on sustainable seafood in the restaurants of Brussels and Strasbourg are  feeling a little red faced.  
The conservation group Oceana, which exposed the huge scale of seafood fraud in the United States two years ago, has found that in at least two canteens belonging to the European Union 16 out of 38 samples had been mislabelled.
Lasse Gustavsson, head of Oceana, said: ‘Hake was sold instead of cod, while cod is more expensive,’ adding the situation in the EU canteens amounted to ‘chaos’.
‘Both the European Parliament and European Commission restaurants didn’t even fulfil the basic requirement of telling the customers: you are buying X.’
European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said ‘the relevant Belgian authorities’ are responsible for carrying out checks in the EU canteens.
‘Of course we assume that these checks are being done and [that] there are no discrepancies between what is labelled and what is being brought into our canteens,’ said Winterstein.
He added that the Commission will ‘be in touch with the three companies concerned and follow up as appropriate with them’.
Winterstein said the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain is responsible for the controls, something which the agency’s spokeswoman, Lieve Busschots, said was ‘a mistake’.
She said the cases, if true, were ‘economic fraud’ and fall under the responsibility of Belgium’s federal ministry of economy.
The economy ministry said it opened 264 investigations in 2013 and 2014 in all of Belgium, but that it does not keep a record of how many of those investigations were in restaurants, only that it mostly carries out checks in supermarkets, wholesalers, and fishmongers.

Oceana also found a similar picture in many of the general restaurants in and around Brussels, saying that customers were being misled in one to three establishments.
However, Oceana said that while consumers have a right to know what they eat, and that mislabelled fish may pose health dangers for those with allergies, they also had to take some responsibility of their own by knowing the proper prices of what they were buying.