Buying salmon can lead to a fishy tale for Chinese consumers

Peter Simpson

During its rise to become the world’s second-largest economy, China’s gift for IP infringement is legendary – but now comes a knock-off tale that has left consumers salmon pink with anger.

According to a state media investigation, one-third of the salmon sold in China is in fact rainbow trout.

The mass dupe has caused widespread dismay and outrage after it was revealed that freshwater trout farmed high on the Tibetan Plateau was being rebranded as the king of fish once the produce landed at markets thousands of miles away.

Retailers have been repackaging and labelling the rainbow trout as imported European and North American salmon and have sold tonnes of the imposter fish to unsuspecting consumers.

In recent years,  Chinese consumers have been buying ever-larger quantities of salmon believing it to be nutritious though as importantly, as an imported food because the technology and standards to combat parasites was considered superior.

Decades of scandals involving Chinese food producers making fake products, sometimes with fatal consequences, has seen millions of Chinese seek out foreign branded produce for safety and quality.

But after CCTV revealed many have been buying a very different type of fish farmed in a reservoir in Qinghai province, consumers took to social media to vent their anger, claiming they have been misled – and with some vowing to stop buying the fish altogether.

The China Fisheries Association was forced to put out a statement in a bid to allay fears about the safety and authenticity of salmon sold in China.

It said several types of fish were considered to be salmon, including Atlantic salmon, Pacific salmon – and the trout.

The association also said that parasites were not a product of seawater or freshwater, but were rather to do with the cleanliness of the water and what the fish ate.

It also added that the authorities backed the farmed salmon industry in China.

Trout, especially sea trout, are closely related to salmon but they have different habits, more so freshwater trout like the rainbow species, which never migrates and spends time at sea.  Freshwater trout and salmon taste very different and have separate and different farming methods.

The Qinghai reservoir covers an area of 383 sq. km and located at an altitude of 2,600m. It’s  home to the biggest salmon farm operations in China, according to Chinese media.

One woman told the Yangtze Evening News that all of the salmon she bought was labelled as imported from Norway, Denmark or Chile.

“It’s highly necessary that consumers can see clearly where the salmon comes from. The products need to be clearly labelled so that people can feel confident about what they’re buying,” she was quoted as saying.



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