SOURCE: Marine Stewardship Council

Marine Stewardship Council

March 23, 2016 11:02 ET

Study Reveals Low Levels of Trust in Seafood Labels Among Canadians

New DNA Testing Provides Reassurance MSC Certified Products Are Correctly Labeled

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - March 23, 2016) - Early results from a surveyi commissioned by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) show that half of Canadian seafood purchasers have doubts that the seafood they consume is correctly labelled. In addition, two-thirds (66 per cent) say it is important these products can be traced back to a known source they can trust, and 57 per cent look to ecolabels as a trusted source of information on product origin.

These findings come on the heels of recent reportsii revealing evidence of seafood mislabeling in the U.S. and Europe as well as academic research uncovering that globally, approximately 30 per cent of seafood is mislabelediii.

At a time when food fraud and labelling issues are top of mind, the MSC is proud to unveil new scientific data verifying that seafood with the blue MSC label is correctly labelled, giving reassurance that MSC labelled seafood can be traced back to a sustainable source.

New DNA testing shows that in Canada, 100 per cent of a representative sample of seafood products carrying the blue MSC label are correctly labelled, while globally this number is over 99 per centiv.

DNA testing is just one of four methods used to confirm that the rigorous MSC Chain of Custody (CoC) Standard ensures MSC labelled seafood can be traced through the supply chain right back to a certified sustainable source. Only organizations with a valid CoC certificate can handle, process or package seafood from MSC-certified sustainable fisheries.

Commenting on the results, Program Director for MSC in Canada Jay Lugar said: "It's important that consumers can trust the blue MSC label as a signal the seafood they're buying is not only sustainable but also traceable and properly labelled."

The three other methods used to ensure product integrity in the CoC Standard are 'trace-backs' through paperwork, recording and comparison of volumes of MSC certified seafood in the market and regular audits.

Mr. Lugar adds: "Food fraud issues have left many consumers feeling duped and distrustful of claims made on their seafood. This undermines the efforts of honest fishers and seafood traders and further reinforces the need for credible traceability in the supply chain. The MSC Chain of Custody program is one of the most recognized and widely used ways of providing this reassurance to seafood consumers and businesses."

MSC labelled fish is sold and processed by certified organizations operating in more than 38,000 sites in over 100 countries. Fishers, processors, retailers and chefs handling MSC certified seafood must follow strict requirements to ensure that seafood is traceable and correctly labelled. To ensure the integrity of the products they sell, in Canada major seafood suppliers, brands and retailers such as Loblaw (and President's Choice), Whole Foods, McDonalds, IKEA, High Liner, Janes Family Foods and Clearwater use the MSC CoC Standard.

Jennifer Lambert, Senior Manager of Sustainability for Loblaw said: "We believe sustainable sourcing is an important part of conserving our resources and improving the social, economic and environmental impacts of our supply chains. In a world where customers are more interested than ever in where their food comes from, the Marine Stewardship Council's robust program guarantees that the seafood on their dinner plate is sourced sustainably and that traceability is maintained from ocean to plate."

There are now more than 500 MSC labelled products available in Canada. To accompany the test findings, the MSC has released a new video for consumers showing the journey of MSC certified seafood from ocean to plate.

Follow the conversation: #OceanToPlate.

Notes for editors

About the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organization. Our vision is for the world's oceans to be teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations. Our ecolabel and certification program recognizes and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market.

The MSC ecolabel on a seafood product means that:

  • It comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC's science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing.
  • It's fully traceable to a sustainable source.

There are more than 280 fisheries in over 35 countries certified to the MSC Standard. These fisheries have a combined annual seafood production of almost nine million metric tonnes, representing close to 10 per cent of annual global yields. More than 20,000 seafood products worldwide carry the MSC ecolabel. For more information visit

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i Research figures were provided by independent research and evidence-led insights company, GlobeScan. Globally, the total sample size was 16,876 consumers who said they or someone in their household had purchased fish or seafood in the last two months. Respondents came from representative samples in 21 countries: Australia; Austria; Belgium; Canada; China; Denmark; France; Finland; Germany; Italy; Japan; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Singapore; South Africa; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; UK and USA. In Canada, the sample size was 1,013.

The survey was carried out online between January and February 2016. The figures have been weighted equally in each country and are representative of all fish consumers in the countries surveyed.

ii Warner, Ph.D., Mustain, Carolin, Disla, Golden Kroner, Lowell and Hirshfield, Ph.D. (2015) conducted a national study on salmon mislabeling in the U.S. for Oceana and found that 43 per cent of the salmon tested were mislabeled. Another Oceana report Too cheap to be true (2015) found that on average, 30 per cent of the seafood served in restaurants in Brussels was mislabeled.

iii Pardo, Jimenez and Perez-Villarreal (2016) compared a total of 51 papers on seafood labelling and found an average mislabelling rate of 30 per cent.

iv In 2015, the MSC commissioned the Wildlife DNA Forensics unit at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) to conduct the tests on the random sampling. Of 257 samples taken, one failed to yield a result after four attempts. Of the 256 samples that were successfully tested, 99.6 per cent were correctly labelled with 0.4 per cent mislabeled (one sample). The incorrectly labelled sample, labelled as containing southern rock sole, was discovered to contain northern rock sole. The species are very similar and both are MSC certified. A full investigation found errors with documentation in the supply chain. Actions have now been taken to ensure that this error does not reoccur. In Canada, a representative sample of 13 products were tested and were labelled 100 per cent of the time. Download the DNA test results report: "From Ocean to Plate: How DNA testing helps to ensure traceable, sustainable seafood".

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Contact Information

  • For media enquiries, please contact:
    Celine Rouzaud
    Marketing and Communications Manager, Canada
    Marine Stewardship Council