The fish farming industry in China recently faced some controversy following an accidental revelation by state media that the “salmon sashimi” consumed in the country was actually rainbow trout.
To avert a crisis, the major rainbow trout producers in the country came up with a quick and easy solution: to officially identify the rainbow trout as a type of salmon, Agence France-Presse reports.
With backing from representatives of the agriculture ministry, the group made the announcement of the new standard over the weekend.
By allowing the fish to bear the “salmon” label, the producers are hoping to move on from the shocking episode.
State broadcaster CCTV was featuring China’s “freshwater salmon” fish farming on the Tibetan plateau earlier this year when it unintentionally revealed that the farmed fish weren’t actual salmon.
“You probably didn’t know it but our country’s Tibetan plateau has long raised this salmon, and not just a few of them, they’ve captured one-third of the market,” the TV presenter narrated while a montage of salmon fillets in supermarkets is shown.
Skeptical viewers took to social media to question how the so-called “salmon” were able to migrate thousands of kilometers, passing through over dozens of dams from China’s northwest to the ocean, which is a common behavior of salmon after they are hatched.
An investigation by a reporter from The Paper would later confirm that the fish referred to as China’s “freshwater salmon” were rainbow trout.
Local e-commerce sites in China made fish farmers from the plateau label their fillets as rainbow trout amid public concerns over the safety of eating freshwater fish. The move, however, threatened an industry crisis as sales began to drop due to lack of consumer confidence.
But while broadening the definition of “salmon” to include rainbow trout may have solved the issue for China’s fish farmers, the consumers are the ones left in the dark.
And despite the new “official” label, experts have noted that while the two fish are related, they are simply of different species.
Among the outspoken critics of the move was science writer Fang Shimin, who compared the relabelling to the melamine-tainted milk scandal in China back in 2008.
“Back in the day, why didn’t Chinese milk producers think to release a standard requiring melamine to be called an ingredient of milk,” Fang wrote on social media. “These salmon sellers are smarter.”
Some also argued the move was appropriate. Guangdong Ocean University professor Zhu Chunhua explained that the alternative of importing huge amounts of salmon from Norway was not practical and that consumers not knowing exactly what they were eating was not a major issue.