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Development and Validation of Methodology for the Confirmation of the Origin of Wild and Farmed Salmon and other Fish

EC Consortium with Eurofins Scientific as overall co-ordinator
Start date
End date
There has been growing interest in the nutritional benefits of fish. The subsequent increase in demand for fish in the face of declining natural fish stocks has led to the development of aquaculture and the ready availability of farmed fish - particularly salmon in the UK. This development has led to a significant reduction in the cost of salmon and farmed fish is two to three times cheaper than wild salmon. Wild salmon however is still held by many to be superior eating compared to farmed fish and, given the price difference, there is the temptation to mislabel farmed fish as 'wild'. It is also a possibility that geographic origin may be mislabelled, for example fish farmed in the UK labelled as 'Scottish Salmon'.

Planned changes to the Fish Labelling Regulations will require the catch area and production method (ie farmed or wild) to be clearly labelled. It is therefore necessary to produce validated methodology for the purpose of authenticating wild and farmed salmon to allow independent verification of labelling claims.

More information
Salmon from different groups may appear genetically identical. To distinguish these groups it is necessary to utilise multi-dimensional composition and isotopic techniques, in combination with advanced statistical techniques, to establish a fingerprint for each group. IRMS (Isotope Ratio Mass Spectroscopy) and NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy) are now recognised techniques for the determination of origin of plant and animal products and have been applied to the fat extracted from fish.
The proposed approach includes the following steps:
  • An extensive background study of literature work on this active area of research will be carried out.
  • Use of range of additional isotopic and compositional analyses to establish principle markers to distinguish between geographical and wild/farmed origins of salmon.
  • A large number of samples from each of the important groups from major importing countries (e.g. farmed/wild salmon from Scotland, Norway, Canada etc) will be obtained and analysed in order to create a database. Factors studied will include effects of geographical location, age of fish, diet, time of year, freshness, and cooking on analytical parameters identified.
  • Investigation of potential to transfer the methodology to other fish species. Once validated for farmed and wild salmon, this methodology will be used to undertake preliminary studies of other fish populations.

Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the Food Standards Agency Research webpage.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project number
Food Preparation and Handling