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Seafish Guidance on Tuna

Seafish’s regulation team has recently been made aware of an issue with tuna fish that is potentially being imported into the UK. This is an open letter to all members concerned with the use of Tuna. 

A practice has emerged that involves fermented vegetable extract being injected into low grade tuna in order to restore its red colour. It is then being mis-sold as high-grade tuna at premium prices.

The UK has always held that this product and process is not permitted for tuna. However, some EU member states interpreted the regulation differently and were permitting the use of vegetable extract as flavouring.

Seafish has worked with tuna importers from four member states, including the UK, to alert the EU Commission to the issue. It has now confirmed the UK position is correct and issued official guidance to other member states. However, until the process is stopped there could potentially be treated tuna on the UK market.

It is believed that this practice is predominantly happening with tuna that is being processed in Spain, France and Italy.

It is thought that the main buyer of this product will be wholesalers and so I’m writing to you to alert you to this and the signs to look for to avoid this product.

It is very difficult to identify the difference between the treated and non-treated tuna. The flavour will not be noticeably different. In terms of the look of the treated tuna, it might be overly red/pink in colour to the trained eye.

I’d strongly advise you to check your supply chains thoroughly and speak to your suppliers to ensure that they are not treating their tuna.

The following signs will help you identify treated tuna:

  • Bright red in colour and significant liquid in the pack which is not the colour of tuna blood.
  • Vacuum packed tuna.
  • Softness of flesh with crumbling fibres on the surface, remaining even after cooking.
  • The label might declare the use of antioxidants such as, E-331(Sodium citrates), E300 (Ascorbic acid), E 301 (Sodium ascorbate) as well as an acidity regulator E500 (Sodium carbonates) and salt. These additives are needed to maintain the correct conditions for the reaction but they are not always declared.
  • The label might declare the use of vegetable ‘aroma’.
  • After exposure to the air the tuna will blacken. This can take several hours as the antioxidants are added to slow this reaction.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

If you suspect that you are being sold low-grade tuna as high-grade, please alert the FSA (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

For any further enquiries please contact Nick Connelly (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) at the Seafish press office.

Yours sincerely,

Fiona Wright

Head of Regulatory Affairs

Seafish | Origin Way, Europarc, Grimsby DN37 9TZ

T: +44 (0) 1472 252333 | M: +44 (0) 7876035746

www.seafish.org