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Something fishy going on in cod market

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

13:18, April 20, 2012

A salesman promotes cod in a supermarket in Shanghai on Wednesday. (China Daily Photo)

Healthy cod or questionable oilfish?

Residents in a number of Chinese cities have been wondering the same thing when they scan local supermarkets.

"Cod, for example, high in protein and low in fat content, is good for the brain development of children," said Tan Guijun, deputy head of the nutrition department at Tianjin First Center Hospital.

"That's why it's popular among parents."

But oilfish, a kind of mackerel, contains a high level of fat - almost 20 percent of its weight - and is not comparable with cod in nutrition.

However, some markets have been falsely advertising the cheaper oilfish as cod to improve their profits, according to experts.

"It's mainly because it's hard even for fishery experts to tell the difference of the two species from appearances after they are cut into pieces when they are sold," said Tang Wenqiao, a professor at the fish research office under Shanghai Ocean University.

Some nutritionists said deep-sea fish products are recommended, especially for young kids. But oilfish is different.

"The high fat will not be absorbed by the human body and will cause diarrhea, especially among kids, whose digestive functions are not fully developed," said Gu Zhongyi, a dietitian at the Beijing Friendship Hospital affiliated to the Capital Medical University.

One Beijing resident commented online that her daughter's inexplicable oily excretions a month ago were caused by eating oilfish sold as cod.

"Lab workers detected high levels of fat in her excretions, but we couldn't understand that," she commented.

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