Since 13 December 2014, the new rules for labels accompanying all fisheries and aquaculture products have become applicable. The Common Organisation of the Markets establishes the specific information that must accompany fishery and aquaculture products sold to conusmers and mass caterers. These requirements complement the general EU rules on the provision of food information to consumers and should contribute to more transparancy on the market enabling consumers to make informed choices on the products they buy. Products may also be accompanied by additional voluntary information, such as the date of harvest, information on environmental, social and ethical matters, production techniques and nutritional content.
The commission has publised a handy pocket guide to help apply the new rules EUpocketguide
One of the latest international developments has been through the Aquaculture Dialogues, administered by the World Wildlife Fund. FEAP representatives participated in those concerning salmon and trout. These dialogues have led to proposals for standards to be administered by the newly-created Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) http://www.asc-aqua.org/
Also, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) is looking to apply standardisation in the field of fisheries and aquaculture (ISO TC 234), including technical specifications, characterisation of aquaculture sites and maintenance of appropriate physical, chemical and biological conditions, environmental monitoring, data reporting, traceability and waste disposal. Information is available at http://www.iso.org/.
Finally, both the European Commission and the European Parliament are discussing the establishment of qualitative criteria – perhaps as a European standard – for European aquaculture. It is not yet known how such an approach will develop but FEAP provides general support for this position.
While seeing the potential for specific labelling and certification schemes, FEAP believes that too many labels have developed and that genuine benefits should be identified. The reality is that adherence to any standard has a direct cost to the producer, not only in production/processing but also for certification and use of a label) and that a price-premium associated to a specific label is not only difficult to estimate but also difficult to obtain.
Labels and standards need to be promoted so that consumers can make a fair choice based on preference. Nonetheless, price-quality-freshness are also prime purchase factors for fish, rather than the associated label.
Although the debate continues, labelling is here to stay. FEAP believes that providing accurate information for the consumer is the key point that has to be respected, a condition that has to be extended through the processing and retail sectors.