Quintessential Saturday night viewing saw a change in tack this week, as the prawn industry took to the stage.
Dispatches’ “Fish Unwrapped,” (aired 15/01/2011, 7:05pm) was the latest in Channel 4’s “Big Fish Fight,” campaign. The series, aided by food champions and celebrity chef characters, Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Gordon Ramsey, aimed to unveil problematic and controversial issues within the fishing industry. “Fish Unwrapped,” saw Alex Thompson delve into the supermarket and high street fishing industry, trailing the source, journey and process of fish we eat daily.
The Dispatches report unearthed concerns that were not alien under the EuroFoods radar.
“Six billion was spent in 2009 on seafood… (and) imports make up 70% of the UK seafood industry…” explains Thompson “…thousands of tons of prawns are sent to the UK from Bangladesh…” As discussed previously in this blog, Bangladesh is our source of prawns.
Visiting the Khulna fresh water lakes, the process of farming prawns unravels with some truly un-nerving visual accompaniment; the prawns are nurtured in ‘ponds,’with EU-banned pesticides added to clean the water and reduce disease among the prawns. Upon prawn harvest, farmers inject the shellfish with a ‘dirty, bulking liquid,’to increase the weight and therefore, value. Middle-men approach farmers to buy the stock and once at a ‘prawn auction,’the fish are sold on to processors which ship to the UK. A trader commented “… (there is) no tracing system… all the fish are mixed together … sold together… they don’t ask where the fish are from.”By the end of this segment, worried watchers were already hitting the web, voicing their justified concerns about the prawn and fishing industry in Bangladesh;
“I had just been to my local Asian supermarket yesterday to pick up the ingredients for a Thai prawn curry. This included prawns, which are great value there. I was horrified to learn that there could be dangerous chemicals in (prawns)… And yes, on checking the label they are from India. At 6 months pregnant I certainly won’t be eating them until I can get a bit more info with regards to provenance.”
“We are sick and tired of the way the consumers in this country are misled by food processors and supermarkets who NEVER take responsibility for their products.”
Where do we go from here?
The report showed little hope for the Bangladeshi prawn industry. These bad practices, from traceability and pesticides, to fattening up and un-hygienic trading conditions are not issues we take lightly; EuroFoods have taken action to regulate our procedures and produce. “We have been aware of some farmers injected water into the prawns after harvest. This practice is forbidden on prawns supplied to us…” commented Stephen Ridge, EuroFoods Technical Manager. “…We work closely with a limited number of suppliers in Bangladesh who operate to the highest standards and these sites are audited by our own technical team of experts. They are all EU approved factories and all prawns are grown without the use of anti-biotics. We test every export, before shipping, to ensure this is the case and that microbiological standards are maintained.”
The information regarding the exposure to pesticides was perhaps the most worrying. At EuroFoods, we realise that due to the method of trade in Bangladesh, it would be impossible, both financially and in manpower, to audit and regulate all the sea-food traffic to the UK. With this in mind, we conduct additional testing of our prawns in the UK.
“We have an independent testing programme using a UK laboratory of repute. Prawns have been tested extensively for antibiotics and other pesticides including organochlorines and a wide range of industrial pollutants. These methods will ensure that prawns comply with our exacting standards.”
The fishing industry is an evolving practice in the modern world, fishermen are playing catch up with an ever demanding industry and essential regulations and guidelines are still to be enforced. Channel 4’s “Big Fish Fight,” and particularly Thompson’s report “Fish Unwrapped,” has captured the difficulties we, as an industry, face. These are difficulties, however, that EuroFoods endeavours to overcome and will continue to lead the way in fairer and safer trade. We would like to assure all our customers, that EuroFoods prawns are closely monitored from Bangladesh to the UK.
1 Jessel, A(2011)Fish Unwrapped Documentary. 15/01/2011 Channel 4
2 Bathory. AJ (2011) Bangladesh: The New Frontier 13/01/2011 http://www.eurofoods.wordpress.com/bangladesh-the-new-frontier
3 Jessel, A(2011)Fish Unwrapped Documentary. 15/01/2011 Channel 4
4 www.Channel4.com (2011) Fish Unwrapped[online] http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-58/episode-5
5 Jessel, A(2011)Fish Unwrapped Documentary. 15/01/2011 Channel 4
6 Anonymous 2011 Fish Unwrapped Documentary interview, Bangladesh, Alex Thompson.
7 Mum2B on 16 January 2011 at 09:01, http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-58/episode-5
8 AlandLiz on 15 January 2011 at 21:37 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-58/episode-5
9 Ridge, S. (2011) None[email] -Davies,J, Bathory, A. January, 2011.
10 Ridge, S. (2011) None[email] -Davies,J, Bathory, A. January, 2011.