Supermarket fish put to the test and how Regal compares
You may have seen Sunday’s episode of ‘The Honest Supermarket: What’s Really in our Food’ which followed dietitian Priya Tew and scientist Richard Chivers who is well known for his work within the seafood industry.
Originally aired in July and repeated last week, Richard explained that quite often the fish would be previously frozen and defrosted ready for the fish counter or chiller cabinets and that even the fresh fish can be up to 20 days old.
Whilst the foods standard agency does rule that the information regarding freezing should be provided, the information does not have to be prominent and is usually seen in small letters somewhere on the back of the packaging. Obviously as the fresh fish counters do not offer prepacked product this information isn’t usually supplied unless the customer specifically asks.
Monitoring the age of the fish is usually left to the supermarkets there is no rule or law which states how long the fish can be kept or how old it is. It is very unusual to get sick from eating even old fish as the fish would smell extremely bad before it would get to the point where it would cause harm therefore the supermarkets can usually put longer on the product and certainly if the fish has been ‘gas flushed’.
The general public associate fresh products as being healthier and will pay extra because we perceive the supermarket has had to rush the items from the boats and farms to their stores quickly before they deteriorate. However this isn’t always the case and quite often the fish will be 12-15 days old before the customer picks it up from the chiller..
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.
Here at Regal the fresh seafood we supply is always bought fresh and sold fresh, never frozen and refreshed for the customer. We are in the fortunate position that we have orders in advance and therefore source only the amount that we need for the days deliveries meaning that we do not have ‘left over’ fish and there is no reason to hold frozen fish ready to defrost.
We believe that frozen fish has its advantages but we would argue that fish that has been frozen should be sold frozen giving the customer the best quality and texture. Freezing fish, especially at sea, locks in a lot of vitamins and minerals. But our frozen products are clearly labelled as frozen and we can supply full traceability on the fish and how quickly it was frozen after catch.
The Torry scale which Richard used in the programme for checking the quality and age of the fish is a systematic scoring system originally developed at the ‘Torry Research Station’ which was based at the Central Science Laboratory which is a part of DEFRA.
The Torry Assement can be used on the fresh raw fillets using a visual assessment and taking into account odour also. There is then the cooked fillet ‘Torry Assesment’ which uses the taste and texture along with the odour.
As the Torry assessment looks for certain characteristics it allows a grade for the fish between 10, which is the score given to the freshest fish usually achieved the day or two after catch, down to 3 or below which is where the fish would be spoiled. A torry of 9.5-10 may not be favoured by many as the fish will not taste of anything in particular and the flesh texture may not be favourable.
Here at regal we asses both the fresh and cooked fillets. Each member within our purchasing and technical department, are fully trained to Torry check our products and they taste every intake of fresh fish daily so that we can be assured that our customers will receive the very best seafood available.
The fish is delivered straight into us each day and we would accept a very minimum score of 8 with the majority of our fish achieving a torry score of 9. Many of our customers find that they have to leave our fish in the refrigerator for a day or 2 before the flavours develop.
With 30 years in the industry, we know that our customers value clarity, expertise, quality and value. Our customers are usually expecting to pay slightly more for a premium product so we will do everything we can to ensure that the fish meets with their expectations.