Trout and salmon 'the same thing', insists China Fisheries Association amid consumer uproar

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The China Fisheries Association said that rainbow trout can be categorised as a type of salmon. ©Getty Images
The China Fisheries Association said that rainbow trout can be categorised as a type of salmon. ©Getty Images
The China Fisheries Association has hit back at “media reports based on subjective and inaccurate understanding”, following consumer concerns that rainbow trout was being sold as Norwegian salmon.

China media recently claimed that one-third of the “Norwegian salmon” products sold in China did not originate from Norway.

Instead, they were from a local fish farm in Qinghai province, which is located in the Tibetan Plateau, causing widespread consumer dissatisfaction. According to the association, it is the largest salmon and trout farm in China.

Reports also claimed that salmon sourced from the fish farm were in fact, rainbow trout.

In an attempt to allay public fears, the association published a statement that pinpointed four ‘misconceptions’.

Notably, it acknowledged that rainbow trout is a type of salmon fish, a notion that is contrary to public understanding.

It claimed that in China, salmon is only a generic name which includes both salmon and trout species, and that salmon is “not a scientific name for a particular type of fish.” ​As such, together with Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon, rainbow trout can be categorised as a type of salmon.

To add legitimacy to their statement, it claimed that even Norwegian and Chilean consumers prefer rainbow trout to other types of salmon, and the former is able to fetch a higher price than Pacific salmon.

The statement did not clarify if the “salmon” sold in China is sourced locally from the Tibetan Plateau or exported from overseas.

However, it emphasised that the rearing of salmon is encouraged by the government, and after years of development, salmon farming has evolved into a “representation of modern aquaculture industry.”

“China taps on its geographical advantage in farming of salmons. As compared to imported salmon, locally farmed salmons are inexpensive, of good quality and safe for consumption, something which is affordable and safe for the common citizens. As such, we oppose anyone who uses any types of methods to paint China salmon farming in a bad light,” ​the association said in its statement.

It also urged the consumers to “refer to information published by expert organisations, instead of engaging in rumour-mongering.”

Colour additive added?

With regards to claims that colour additive is used to make rainbow trout as similar looking as possible to Pacific salmon, the association said that the colour of both Pacific salmon and rainbow trout is attributed to astaxanthin, a naturally-occurring carotenoid pigment found in fish feed.

Hence, the association emphasised that the use of a colour additive is an unfounded claim.

From infant milk formula to whisky to olive oil, China is notorious for food fraud. Recent research​ has shown that traditional indicators such as country of origin, price and brand and physical prevention measures such as tamper proof seals, were the most trusted means of identifying authentic and safe foods for the Chinese consumers.

Other claims

The association also addressed ‘misconceptions’ on: 1) whether salmons could be farmed in freshwater; and 2) whether freshwater salmon contains parasites.

It explained that since most salmon species are migratory fish, its egg laying and incubation stages would be completed in freshwater. As such, there is no doubt that salmos could be farmed in freshwater.

As to whether freshwater salmon contains parasite, the association said that parasites were not a product of seawater or freshwater, but are rather to do with the cleanliness of the water and what the fish eat.

“Since wild salmon is not reared in controlled environment, the chances of wild salmon contracting diseases and breeding parasites are much higher than farmed salmon,” ​it claimed.

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