Carmen Blanco‑Fernandez, Alba Ardura, Paula Masiá, Noemi Rodriguez, Laura Voces, Marcelino Fernandez‑Raigoso, Agustín Roca, Gonzalo Machado‑Schiaffino, Eduardo Dopico and Eva Garcia‑Vazquez

Abstract: Despite high effort for food traceability to ensure safe and sustainable consumption, mislabeling persists on seafood markets. Determining what drives deliberate fraud is necessary to improve food authenticity and sustainability. In this study, the relationship between consumer’s appreciation and fraudulent mislabeling was assessed through a combination of a survey on consumer’s preferences (N = 1608) and molecular tools applied to fish samples commercialized by European companies. We analyzed 401 samples of fish highly consumed in Europe and worldwide (i.e. tuna, hake, anchovy, and blue whiting) through PCR-amplification and sequencing of a suite of DNA markers. Results revealed low mislabeling rate (1.9%), with a higher mislabeling risk in non-recognizable products and significant mediation of fish price between consumer´s appreciation and mislabeling risk of a species. Furthermore, the use of endangered species (e.g. Thunnus thynnus), tuna juveniles for anchovy, and still not regulated Merluccius polli hake as substitutes, points towards illegal, unreported and/or unregulated fishing from African waters. These findings reveal a worrying intentional fraud that hampers the goal of sustainable seafood production and consumption, and suggest to prioritize control efforts on highly appreciated species.

Journal: Scientific Reports

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