Quality seals and certificates

In order to make the right choices from the wide ran­ge of pro­ducts offe­red by various manu­fac­tu­r­ers and brands when shop­ping for food, many con­su­mers use seals and cer­ti­fi­ca­tes as a gui­de. The­se were ori­gi­nal­ly crea­ted to asso­cia­te pro­ducts with cer­tain cha­rac­te­ristics and to pro­vi­de con­su­mers with a basis for making decis­i­ons. The seals of appr­oval can be clas­si­fied accor­ding to envi­ron­men­tal or social aspects as well as accor­ding to the pro­duct groups to which they refer.

In Ger­ma­ny the­re are now over 1000 dif­fe­rent qua­li­ty seals, marks of ori­gin and sym­bols. Accor­din­gly, food pack­a­ging is cor­re­spon­din­gly colorful. Only very few of the seals are based on legal foun­da­ti­ons. A lar­ge num­ber of the sym­bols are pri­va­te labels or pri­va­te test marks. For the con­su­mer, this seal and cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on land­scape is pri­ma­ri­ly con­fu­sing. Many labels and their lack of trans­pa­ren­cy make it dif­fi­cult to choo­se sui­ta­ble foods and iden­ti­fy their ori­gin based on one’s own values.

With regard to aquacul­tu­re, the­re is also a gre­at need for infor­ma­ti­on, as various recent stu­dies have shown, inclu­ding the stu­dy of the BÖLN (Bun­des­pro­gramm Öko­lo­gi­scher Land­bau und ande­re For­men nach­hal­ti­ger Land­wirt­schaft) „Kreis­lauf­an­la­gen – Posi­tio­nen des Öko­sek­tors” (Recir­cu­la­ti­on sys­tems – Posi­ti­ons of the eco-sec­tor). Alt­hough fish far­ming has been inte­gra­ted into the EU orga­nic regu­la­ti­on sin­ce 2009, modern recir­cu­la­ti­on sys­tems are curr­ent­ly excluded from the regu­la­ti­on. The „near-natu­ral“ far­ming methods men­tio­ned abo­ve are not com­pa­ti­ble with recir­cu­la­ti­on sys­tems that place the fish in pla­s­tic tanks.

“(11) Recent tech­ni­cal deve­lo­p­ment has led to incre­asing use of clo­sed recir­cu­la­ti­on sys­tems for aquacul­tu­re pro­duc­tion, such sys­tems depend on exter­nal input and high ener­gy but per­mit reduc­tion of was­te dischar­ges and pre­ven­ti­on of escapes. Due to the prin­ci­ple that orga­nic pro­duc­tion should be as clo­se as pos­si­ble to natu­re the use of such sys­tems should not be allo­wed for orga­nic pro­duc­tion until fur­ther know­ledge is available. Excep­tio­nal use should be pos­si­ble only for the spe­ci­fic pro­duc­tion situa­ti­on of hat­che­ries and nur­se­ries.”
(Com­mis­si­on Regu­la­ti­on (EC) No 710/2009 of 5 August 2009)

The con­cept of being clo­se to natu­re and the ques­ti­on of which new rese­ar­ches are neces­sa­ry were taken up and con­tro­ver­si­al­ly dis­cus­sed in Naturland’s stake­hol­der stu­dy. It can be said that every aquacul­tu­re is arti­fi­ci­al in its­elf, but the recir­cu­la­ti­on sys­tem makes it „far from natu­re“, espe­ci­al­ly sta­ted by the con­su­mer. This con­su­mer often trans­fers his know­ledge and per­cep­ti­ons of live­stock and poul­try far­ming (fac­to­ry far­ming) to fish far­ming and thus jud­ges it main­ly emo­tio­nal­ly and unob­jec­tively. Com­pared to other fish far­ming prac­ti­ces, howe­ver, clo­sed recir­cu­la­ti­on sys­tems have num­e­rous advan­ta­ges in terms of the environment:

  • con­ser­va­ti­on of stocks in natu­ral waters
  • no dischar­ge of excre­ments and resi­dues into natu­ral waters
  • reduc­tion of water consumption
  • reduc­tion of trans­port distances
  • con­trol of the fish stock, no escape to sur­roun­ding ecosystems
  • food safe­ty

In order to gua­ran­tee a qua­li­ta­ti­ve cha­rac­te­riza­ti­on of fish farms in the future and to legi­ti­mi­ze the eco-cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on pro­ce­du­res for recir­cu­la­ti­on sys­tems, the defi­ni­ti­on of the EC Eco Regu­la­ti­on must be divi­ded into con­cre­te eva­lua­ti­on points. Cri­te­ria such as „clo­se to natu­re“ and „ani­mal-fri­end­ly live­stock far­ming“ must be spe­ci­fied in their requi­re­ments so that each plant can be eva­lua­ted individually.

Even though the­re is curr­ent­ly no cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on pos­si­bi­li­ty for clo­sed recir­cu­la­ting aquacul­tu­re, the fol­lo­wing is a brief intro­duc­tion to the most important labels:

EU Bio-Label
This label can be found on pro­ducts in which at least 95% of the ingre­di­ents come from orga­nic far­ming and which con­tain a maxi­mum of 0.9% gene­ti­cal­ly modi­fied mate­ri­als. Sin­ce 2010, the­re is an indi­vi­du­al sec­tion of orga­nic aquacul­tu­re, in which it is regu­la­ted that the sto­cking den­si­ty may not exceed 25 kg per m3 (varies accor­ding to spe­ci­es). In clo­sed recir­cu­la­ti­on sys­tems only brood and young ani­mals may be kept. Only orga­ni­cal­ly pro­du­ced feed is allo­wed as feed and for car­ni­vor­ous fish cer­tain vege­ta­ble ingre­di­ents are only rest­ric­ted­ly approved.

Sin­ce the mid-1990s, the Natur­land Asso­cia­ti­on for Orga­nic Far­ming, foun­ded in 1982, has also had gui­de­lines for aquacul­tu­re. Only feed­s­tuffs that meet the­se stan­dards may be used. In addi­ti­on, the sto­cking den­si­ty must not exceed 10 kg per m3 (varies accor­ding to the spe­ci­es of fish). Fur­ther­mo­re, no che­mi­cals may be used, and the ani­mals may not be reared in arti­fi­ci­al con­tai­ners. The­r­e­fo­re, this label cate­go­ri­cal­ly excludes the far­ming in clo­sed recir­cu­la­ti­on systems.

Ger­man Bio-Label
The Ger­man equi­va­lent of the EU eco-label is also based on EU legis­la­ti­on and is the­r­e­fo­re usual­ly found bes­i­de the EU label on the pro­duct pack­a­ging. It is aimed ther­eby like­wi­se at a „kind-fair ani­mal hus­bandry“ and a careful, las­ting and thus eco­lo­gi­cal production.

Fol­lo­wing on from the MSC label for wild caught fish pro­ducts, the ASC seal for respon­si­ble aquacul­tu­re has been in exis­tence sin­ce 2009. The stan­dard cri­te­ria are the tracea­bi­li­ty of the ori­gin of the fish feed (not from over­fi­shed stocks, GMO declared), the ban on gene­ti­cal­ly modi­fied ani­mals, sui­ta­bi­li­ty of the loca­ti­on for the far­med fish, low mor­ta­li­ty rate during the bree­ding peri­od, gua­ran­tee of a good water qua­li­ty and medi­cal­ly moni­to­red use of anti­bio­tics exclu­si­ve­ly for the tre­at­ment of sick animals.

In the mean­ti­me, docu­men­ta­ti­ons of the acti­vi­ties and cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on pro­ce­du­res of MSC and ASC are available. With regard to the­se reports the ques­ti­on ari­ses whe­ther the pro­ducts cer­ti­fied with the­se labels are actual­ly still pro­du­ced accor­ding to the spe­ci­fied cri­te­ria and whe­ther one should trust in the label.

Other seals are for exam­p­le tho­se of Trans­pa­rent Fishe­ries, bio­Fi­sh, Sus­tainable Aquacul­tu­re, Debio, GGN and Gää.

​In sum­ma­ry, it can be said that con­su­mers today not only blind­ly trust prin­ted labels but should also form their own impres­si­on of pro­ducts and their ori­gin – espe­ci­al­ly in the fresh food sec­tor. In the cour­se of an incre­asing­ly regio­nal sup­p­ly the con­su­mer is enab­led to main­tain cont­act with the pro­du­cer and to con­vin­ce hims­elf of the pro­duc­tion con­di­ti­ons of the food in per­so­nal talks at the mar­ket or at the producer’s pre­mi­ses. In this way, the con­su­mer knows what ends on his pla­te and the pro­du­cer ulti­m­ate­ly expe­ri­en­ces more under­stan­ding and grea­ter app­re­cia­ti­on of his product.

With this in mind, we will be dis­pen­sing with labels for the fore­seeable future and would pre­fer to encou­ra­ge con­su­mers to find out about the ori­gin of the fish of their choice and to sup­port tho­se sup­pli­ers who best meet their values of fresh­ness, sus­taina­bi­li­ty and quality.


Pic­tu­re Source: SEAWATER Cubes