CHOICE trawls supermarket freezers to hook best catch
CHOICE says shoppers who opt for frozen fish products can pay up to 35% more for the packaged variety versus a similar fresh product found in the supermarket deli. The people’s watchdog also says that some packaged fish products contain 50% or less fish.
The review of 101 frozen fish products in the 211.5 million dollar industry¹ compared price and fish content as well as nutrients of uncoated, seasoned, battered and crumbed fillets and fish fingers found in supermarket freezers.
Of the battered, crumbed and/or seasoned white fish products, Pacific West’s Fish Fillets in a Parsley Crumb had the lowest fish content with 45% fish while I&J Flame Grills (Garlic & Parmesan and Lemon Pepper & Garlic varieties) had the highest fish content at 84%. All plain, uncoated fillets and seasoned salmon fillets contain 90% or more fish.
“Many frozen fish products are as much batter, crumbs and other coating ingredients as they are fish. The more fish in a product, the more of the beneficial nutrients of fish you’ll be getting, so it pays to check the fish percentage in the ingredients label,” says CHOICE Spokesperson, Ingrid Just.
CHOICE says that, while frozen fish products offer convenience, unit pricing shows they can be a lot more expensive than fresh fish.
For example, CHOICE shoppers paid $10.99 for a 250g pack of Woolworths Select Lemon & Dill Salmon Fillets (or $43.96 per kg). By comparison, fresh boned and skinned Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon fillets from the same supermarket’s deli cost $28.99 per kg.
“While keeping a packet of fillets or fish fingers in the freezer makes life easier, you can save by buying fresh fish and making your own sauce using a handful of inexpensive pantry ingredients,” says Ms Just.
CHOICE says nutrition claims on many fish products claiming to be a ‘source of’ or ‘rich in’ omega-3 can also be confusing.
The government’s National Health & Medical Research Council suggests a dietary target for long chain omega-3 fatty acids of 610mg per day for men and 430mg per day for women. However, only 15 products in the review had 430mg or more omega-3s per serve.²
“You’d need to eat much more than a serve of many of these frozen fish products to achieve your daily target. For example, men would have to eat 16 Birds Eye Fish Fingers and women 11 to reach that target, despite the product’s claim to be a ‘good source of omega-3’.
While all the claims reviewed by CHOICE conformed to requirements of the Food Standards Code, the people’s watchdog advises anyone eating fish to boost their omega-3 levels to check the nutrition panel to see how much omega-3 is contained in each serve.
“There’s no doubt that grabbing a packet of frozen fish fingers or fillets in the supermarket has its advantages. Before you throw them in the trolley however, take a closer look at what you’re really buying. Some of these products are definitely better than others when it comes to value for money and health benefits,” says Ms Just.
Read the CHOICE report on frozen fish products.
Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669
¹Retail World Annual Report, 2011
²Oily types of fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Eating fish regularly may also reduce the risk of developing dementia and age-related macular degeneration. The Australian Dietary Guidelines (currently under review) recommend we try to eat one or two fish meals a week.