A NEW online tool will help foodservice businesses compare and contrast the 16 seafood certification schemes on the market.
Sustainable sourcing of seafood is one of the most difficult challenges facing foodservice businesses. It is also one of the most high-profile. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, don’t forget, gathered support from 866,000 people for his Fish Fight campaign. Meanwhile, four in five Brits want seafood to come from sustainable sources that are not overfished. That isn’t always easy – according to WWF, almost two-thirds of the assessed fish stocks in the EU are overexploited.
Some food companies have therefore relied on independent certification standards to highlight products that are produced or sourced to meet ethical, environmental or social guidelines. The Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) is the one of the most widely recognised, but there are more than a dozen other standards including Friend of the Sea and the National Federation of Fish Friers’ Fish and Chip Quality Award. This focus on sustainability is good news, but the proliferation of schemes has created confusion.
“Fish sustainability is an important issue and one that’s close to our hearts,” says Caroline Fry, the chief executive of CH&Co’s business and industry unit. “But the existence of different certification measurements and labelling causes consumer confusion, which can lead to disengagement from the issue.”
Like many in the foodservice industry, Fry has welcomed a new online tool to demystify certification standards. Developed by the industry body Seafish, the Guide to Seafood Standards allows businesses to compare and contrast 16 different schemes. However, “it is not a benchmarking tool”, says a spokeswoman. That is a “much bigger job”, but one which needs to be done. As Seafish’s chief executive, Paul Williams, explains: “Standards are a vitally important way of certifying performance against set criteria, although as yet there is no statutory requirement for equivalence and the schemes vary in the factors they cover.” Others have referred to seafood sustainability certification as “like watching a football game without rules and no referee”.
In February, the GSSI (Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative) was officially launched in a bid to tackle this issue, promising to deliver not another eco-label but “mutual recognition and comparability of credible seafood certification and labelling programmes globally”. In other words, a harmonised assessment scale for sustainable fish purchasing which allows the certifications to be compared. Seventeen leading companies – including Sodexo and Sainsbury’s – will work with the German Society for International Co-operation, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development, over the next three years to deliver the new benchmarks. The GSSI could also reduce duplication and cut costs. The MSC believes there is an “indisputable need for truly independent review”. It says that a “credible, balanced, transparent process to evaluate, benchmark and grade the performance of the various programmes” would be “a welcome and needed evolution in the sustainable seafood movement”.
A link to the tool and details of the GSSI are available online HERE