Journalist Tom Rawstorne finds the fish that supermarkets are selling on ‘fresh’ fish counters can be months old. Sometimes two years old. And it’s perfectly okay for them to do so.
Monitoring the age of fish on sale is left to supermarkets. ‘There is no limit as such — there is no rule or law that says it has to be ten days or whatever.’
Supermarket customers pay a premium for fresh produce. We associate fresh products as being healthier and will pay extra because we perceive the supermarket has had to rush the items from the farms to their stores quickly before they deteriorate.
However, most of the ‘fresh’ fruit and veg we buy in supermarkets can be weeks old. Apples are typically stored for between six and twelve months before being sold as fresh, to give an example.
Writing for The Independent, Meg Carter argues that supermarkets exploit the fact that customers have a different definition of fresh than supermarkets do.
This is all quite frustrating when you consider that fruit and veg is more expensive in supermarkets than local shops.
How can the fish on fresh fish counters be up to two years old?
Supermarkets can sell fish that has been thawed alongside fish that has not been previously frozen. In other words, it is not clear which fish are fresh and which are defrosted until you read the label after you have purchased the fish.
Fish that they haven’t frozen and thawed has also been found to be ’16 days old — with three days left on its use-by date.’
What does this mean for supermarket consumers?
We would argue that frozen fish has its advantages. However, fish that has been frozen should be sold frozen. Freezing fish, especially at sea, locks in a lot of vitamins and minerals. But when supermarkets thaw their fish and leave it on ice to perish for days, this defeats the purpose.
We would also say that selling thawed fish alongside fish that hasn’t been frozen can be misleading, even if it is compulsory to make it clear on the label. Depending on the ratio of defrosted to non-frozen fish on their counters, it might be wiser to call them ‘thawed fish’ counters rather than ‘fresh fish’ counters.
With over 25 years in the industry, we know that customers value clarity, expertise, quality and value.
With an eye on cost alone, and because supermarkets are inherently wasteful because they need to buy more than they expect to sell to keep shelves full, the fish sold at supermarkets is often disappointing. It needs to be asked if shoppers are getting true value for money from their weekly shop at their local chain supermarket.
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