Monday, November 24, 2014

Fresh Fish and super markets-A big contradiction?

The word "fresh" is one of the most misused terminologies by the food industry as most consumers want to eat their food as fresh as possible. Unfortunately there is no unanimity regarding the exact meaning of the word "fresh", different stake holders meaning different things. Consumer expects that fresh fish should the one caught immediately prior to be sold to him while the sellers aim at selling them before deterioration starts setting in. The arbitrator viz the government wants to ensure it is not dangerous to the health of the consumer. The food scientists and quality experts consider any thing fresh if the eating quality is essentially same as that when the fish was caught. In a food like fish which deteriorates in quality pretty fast the seller cannot afford to delay the time lapse between catching and selling too much though to day's technology has the wherewithal to keep it fresh for a few hours after catching. The reported situation in some of the super markets in the UK indicates that fish branded as "fresh" were actually caught 15 days back and consumers are buying a product with practically 80-90% of its life gone! Here is the low down on this tricky issue. 

"Mr Chivers said: Supermarkets selling 'fresh' fish that's really 15 DAYS old  if not in the past few days. 'They think the fish is going to be fresh and tasty. But some of the samples we tested they are not going to enjoy at all.' He used the Torry scale – an industry standard system to measure freshness – in which experts rate the fish's physical characteristics to estimate how long ago it was caught.  Mr Chivers found some fish was in danger of going off quickly. 'These are not off, but give them a day in a domestic fridge and you would begin to taste an off odour,' he told the Sunday Mirror. Current guidelines say fish can be sold as fresh if it has been kept on ice since being caught. Morrisons' fisheries manager, Huw Thomas, said: 'Careful planning ensures that the time between the fish being caught and then sold on our counters is minimal . In our experience, the Torry scale is a reliable tool for judging quality, but not food safety or how long each fish has been out of the water.' A Tesco spokesman said: 'We ensure all our fish is of good quality.' Asda also defended the freshness of its products, saying: 'We are the only retailer to publish how and where we source our wild fish.'A Sainsbury's spokesman said all its fish would remain 'good quality for the duration of its shelf life'"

While consumer is the "King" as far the market is concerned, the manufacturers and marketeers do expect some consideration for their logistical difficulties in procuring and distribution of the product. Industry normally endeavors to minimize the lapse of time between procurement and delivery to the consumer. However consumer is willing to give reasonable time and he expects the industry to be truthful. Where is the necessity of declaring a 15 days old fish as fresh? As long as such declarations are not made consumer may be willing to patronize the brand as long as it tastes good to his palates. Those who sell stale fish cannot be expected to remain in the market for too long and the market will take care of those indulging in  such deceiving practices. Fluid milk vendors often use the words "Dairy Fresh", again to exploit the weakness of consumers to all such things which are fresh (except for liquor). Ultimately under a branded marketing regime, whether fresh or not the quality and safety of the product only can ensure survival of the brands. 


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