You’ll find more cod in a fil­let than in a fish fin­ger

You’ll find more cod in a fil­let than in a fin­ger, but they are an easy way to eat fish

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Rose Costello

If Cap­tain Birds Eye is look­ing par­tic­u­larly pleased with him­self these days, it’s not just be­cause he has been re-in­car­nated in the form of a hand­some Ital­ian wa­ter­sports en­thu­si­ast. It may also be be­cause the old sea dog can boast that his fish fin­gers are help­ing the seas to re­cover.

That may be stretch­ing it, but the Marine Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety in the UK said re­cently it had found that 85 per cent of fish in 48 brands it looked at were from top-rated sus­tain­able sources. In its re­port, the so­ci­ety notes that a lot of brands don’t highlight the fact that their fish is from a sus­tain­able source, though they could.

That’s not the case with Birds Eye. On the front, its boxes have a blue logo with a tick in­side and the words “Cer­ti­fied Sus­tain­able Seafood MSC www.msc.org”.

This isn’t just empty mar­ket­ing speak. It refers to the fact the Marine Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil, a Bri­tish non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, con­ducts “ob­jec­tive third-party fish­ery as­sess­ment us­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence”, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

The MSC Fish­eries Stan­dard is based in part on the UN Fish­eries and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Code of Con­duct for Re­spon­si­ble Fish­ing. This is con­firmed by ex­ter­nal au­dit­ing to the Global Sus­tain­able Seafood Ini­tia­tive bench­mark.

Prove­nance tool

Birds Eye goes one bet­ter and, as is ex­plained on the back of the packet, if you go to the web­site and feed in the code next to the “best be­fore” date, it will tell you where the fish in that box comes from. Find the prove­nance tool and you will have an an­swer. The num­ber 27-01E on pack­ets I picked up in­di­cated that the fish was At­lantic cod from the north­east At­lantic, north­east Arc­tic or Nor­we­gian Sea. It was caught with trawls, seines, lines and hooks, gill nets and sim­i­lar.

Cod gets the MSC tick of ap­proval too as stocks were deemed last year to have re­cov­ered from near col­lapse. It is the first time in 20 years this has hap­pened, and is the rea­son there is so much cod on sale again. As of 2017, Birds Eye got 90 per cent of its fish from sus­tain­able sources, ac­cord­ing to its web­site, and it plans to hit 100 per cent by 2025.

So what else can you tell from the packet? Fish fin­gers have omega-3, a type of fatty acid that has been cred­ited with help­ing to boost brain power in chil­dren be­cause it plays a role in brain de­vel­op­ment and func­tion. Lots of brands, in­clud­ing Dunnes Stores’ own brand and Birds Eye and Young’s, note that the fin­gers are “a source of omega-3”.

The type of white fish used in fish fin­gers, how­ever, such as cod and pol­lock, has a lot less omega-3 than oily fish such as salmon or sar­dines.

Fish fin­gers are still a good way to get the wary to eat fish. Af­ter Birds Eye de­vel­oped fish fin­gers, it cre­ated the tagline “No bones, no waste, no smell, no fuss” and that still holds. So what else is in there? Noth­ing too odd, it seems.

Dunnes’ Alaskan Pol­lock fish fin­gers have 65 per cent fish fil­let, then some fairly stan­dard bat­ter in­gre­di­ents. These in­clude po­tato starch, wheat flour, salt, lin­seed oil, bread­crumbs, spices and rape­seed oil, which in­ci­den­tally has some omega-3 too. Un­der the nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion, it also notes there is 0.17g of omega-3 fatty acids in each fish fin­ger.

Some brands seem to have more omega-3 than oth­ers de­spite us­ing the same fish. Birds Eye’s box of 18 fish fin­gers uses just 58 per cent fish, but keep read­ing the in­gre­di­ents and you will see that the bread­crumb coat­ing con­tains fish oil too. So they have 120mg of DHA and 231g of EPA& DHA Omega-3. Seems like a clever plan as long as they taste good.

Buy a box of 14 Alaskan Pol­lock fin­gers from Birds Eye and there is no added fish oil. They are made with 62 per cent fish fil­let and a stan­dard bat­ter, but there is no men­tion of omega-3 lev­els on the box. The only sep­a­rate nu­tri­ent men­tioned in the nutri­tion la­belling is se­le­nium, which we all need.

Most brands don’t have sugar in the in­gre­di­ents, ex­cept for Tesco Finest chunky cod fish fin­gers, where it ap­pears as glu­cose syrup. So they are best avoided.

There’s not a lot of fish in fin­gers com­pared to a full-size fil­let, but they are an easy way to have fish. The only ques­tion for Cap­tain Birds Eye now is whether to fry or grill them.

Fish fin­gers have omega-3, a type of fatty acid that has been cred­ited with help­ing to boost brain power in chil­dren be­cause it plays a role in brain de­vel­op­ment and func­tion Omega-3

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