Fishy fix on at the scale
Buyers charged for ice
SHOPPERS buying frozen seafood have been charged for ice water in the packaging.
The Seafood Importers Association of Australasia said some sellers had been including ice glaze in the declared weight of packaged seafood, such as fish fillets and prawns.
The association’s technical adviser, Mark Boulter, said ice glaze, used as a protective coating to stop seafood drying out, typically made up 10 per cent of the total weight of packages.
While some manufacturers declared a net weight excluding ice or water, industry surveillance had found that others included the ice glaze.
Concerns about the “ripoff” have been raised with the nation’s trade measurement regulator, which now plans to crack down on the practice.
Mr Boulter said it was unclear how commonly it happened but “certainly there was a feeling a number of people were doing this, that they were getting away with something that didn’t pass the pub test”.
“Businesses that include ice glaze in net weight can economically undercut those that don’t. In our view, that’s a ripoff,” he said.
Mr Boulter said that, up until recently, businesses had legally been able to include ice glaze in the net weight if water was listed in the ingredients.
Most of the frozen packaged seafood that is sold in Australia is imported. Mr Boulter said that, since concerns had been raised, the National Measurement Institute had clarified that the declared net weight for frozen packaged seafood which was not marinated, crumbed, or subject to other “value adding” must exclude any external water or ice glaze.
NMI legal metrology general manager Bill Loizides said the regulator had “considered the concerns expressed by industry and consumer groups and clarified its interpretation of the regulations relating to frozen seafood”.
“To help ensure that consumers are getting a fair deal, NMI’s trade measurement inspectors will be undertaking a program of inspections in 2018-19 to check whether weight statements on prepackaged frozen seafood refer to the net weight of the seafood, excluding any external water or ice glaze,” he said.
Inspections will cover the whole distribution chain, including packers, importers, wholesalers and retailers.
Penalties applying to businesses that are caught out inflating measurements include fines of up to $210,000 per infraction for a company, or fines of up to $42,000 per infraction for individuals.