Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
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More transparency for consumers as new rules on seafood labelling come into force

More transparency for consumers as new rules on seafood labelling come into force

Do you know where the fish on your plate was caught? Where it was farmed? When it was packaged or frozen? If, like most European consumers, you would rather be better informed, then new labelling rules for food sold in the EU will help you make your choice.

The new rules aim to make the information to consumers more transparent, helping them understand where their seafood has come from and when it was caught or farmed. Given that 80% of the fish marketed in the EU comes from catches and that we import more than 65% of the fish we eat, consumers understandably want more informative labelling.

© European Union 2014

So what will you now find on your label at the local supermarket or billboard at your fishmongers?

  • Whether the product has been defrosted and the date of minimum durability.
  • Pre-packed products must display the “best before” or “use by” dates, but non pre-packed products will still vary by country.
  • Commercial and scientific names will help those when buying fish in a foreign language.
  • Whether the product was caught or farmed.
  • Where the fish comes from. For products caught at sea, consumers will know the name of the ocean. For the seas that surround the European Union, more detailed zones will be provided.
  • Which fishing gear was used to catch the fish: seines, trawls, hooks or traps for example.

Retailers and mass caterers are invited to display voluntary information, such as the date of catch, the port of landing or the fishing gear used, as well as information of an environmental, ethical or social nature. Many EU businesses have already prepared their new labels and see the changes as an opportunity to better differentiate their products whilst helping their consumers make more informed choices.

 “Clearer labelling will allow consumers to play their part in ensuring a sustainable fishing and aquaculture industry”,

Stefaan Depypere, Director of International Affairs and Markets at the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The changes also seek to play their part in promoting sustainable fishing and aquaculture. Fishery products are a renewable biological resource, taken from a natural environment, and fishing is governed by mandatory conservation measures to work towards sustainable fisheries. If the consumer is to be involved in the sustainable use of the oceans, labels need to provide understandable, verifiable and accurate information. Consumers have also expressed the need for more information on the environmental impact of the products they buy, and the European Commission is currently looking at the feasibility of a EU-wide eco-label, and will report back later this year.

To get to grip with the changes and see what to expect on a seafood label, read the Commission's pocket guide to the new rules.

Past Issues
June  2017 - Issue 75
March  2017 - Issue 74
November 2016 - Issue 73
August 2016 - Issue 72