/ Food & Drink

Are you getting the fish you pay for?

Fish and chips

In our latest round of food testing, as part of our Stop Food Fraud campaign, we’ve found some fishy goings on in fish ‘n’ chip shops. Is the fish you’re ordering the fish you’re getting?

As a nation, we all love to sit down with some fish and chips on a Friday night. But what if you’re not getting the cod or haddock you ordered?

We tested 45 samples of fish labelled as being cod or haddock bought from random fish and chip shops in Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester.

Around one in six of those were mislabelled, with some samples being substituted for cheaper fish.

Fishy findings in chip shop tests

Two of the 15 samples of cod tested in Manchester were haddock. But, worse than that, in Glasgow five of the 15 samples of haddock were found to be whiting. Whiting is similar to haddock, but it’s usually much cheaper. It might still be tasty once battered, but if you’re paying for the more expensive haddock, that’s what you should be getting.

The results come just five months after we found that 40% of the lamb takeaways we tested had been contaminated with other meats, with some being sans-lamb altogether.

We want the Government to quickly implement all of the recommendations from the Elliott Review, including setting up a new Food Crime Unit to ensure there are effective controls in place and there’s a zero tolerance approach to food crime.

Get what you pay for

We shared our findings with Professor Chris Elliott, who published his review into the horsemeat scandal last week. He told us:

‘It has been known for quite some time fish fraud is very common and species substitution is always high on the list of causes. It is clear the catering industry in the UK has a long way to go to ensure that consumers get what they are paying for.

‘They must work to ensure that such fraud is prevented by tightening their audits and testing regime, two of the key pillars of food integrity I referred to in my report to government.’

Following the publication of the Elliott Review, we wanted to find out how confident people are that their takeaways are correctly described. Half of the takeaway buyers we asked said they weren’t confident that the food they buy contains the ingredients stated.

Are you confident that the fish you’ve ordered from your local chip shop is the fish it claims to be?


The reasons for this happening are the punishments are TOO soft and the chances of getting caught TOO low, and the ability to make alot of easy money TOO high.

Seems pretty straight forward to address this. If they can prove they bought “cod” in good faith with receipts etc then just fine them 90% of annual turnover, if not, lock up the owners for 10 years and ban them for running any business ever again.

If it can be proved that the receipts are incorrect i.e. its says cod and it not, apply the same rules to the supplier. If they supplier is foreign, make it illegal for anyone in the UK to import either directly or indirectly from that supplier or companies in the same group.

Basically put the fear of God into the people carrying out these crimes.

You can probably tell I have zero sympathy for anyone who breaks the law.

Mike242golf says:
19 November 2014


margaret marie kerr says:
6 April 2022

Why are the chip shops allowed to get their fish from Russia.

I prefer Haddock to Cod but frequently find it is not available on demand [or has been lying around for a long time since being fried] because it is not the most popular choice for fried fish and is usually more expensive. I am surprised, therefore, to see that Haddock is being substituted for Cod in some places [perhaps out of ignorance and not all the time]. The report does not identify any substitution of Cod by cheaper fish but I expect this goes on. I am concerned that Whiting is being substituted for Haddock. Apart from this problem, I have noticed that portion sizes have been reducing so that more pieces can be cut from the same size of fish – more batter is required but that is cheap as chips [well, not really . . . thay have also gone down in quantity but up in price].


Cod is actually open to interpretation. My local fish and chip shop actually was telling me the cod was Russian from the norther pacific. I think we had better get a lot sharper on protecting and harvesting fish stocks before it is too late. And that is why I eat relatively little fish.

BTW a large cod would be about 6ft long and two hundred pounds – but when you fish them towards extiction you end up harvesting the little guys.

I ordered cod and got some grey fish. I informed our local trading standards officer who was not in the slightest interested and took no action.

Sadly I’m not surprised, I’ve currently got a complaint out against my local Trading Standards for breaking the law. Funny how Citizen Advice haven’t returned my call.

Another “regulator” type that’s not fit for purpose.

Obviously it is wrong to sell one fish as another, but my top priority is that food is safe to eat.

Meat is subjected to various tests before it is passed as fit to eat, so substituting untested horse meat as beef is a serious issue.

I believe that it is fairly easy to distinguish haddock from cod, particularly if the skin is not removed. Trading Standards is more likely to investigate if there are multiple complaints about the same shop.

Mike242golf says:
19 November 2014

Selfish she a killer whale don’t mess with the best!!!

This discussion reminds me that the ‘vinegar’ used and sold in most fish & chip shops is actually what is referred to as ‘non-brewed condiment’. This is a vinegar substitute, largely consisting mainly of industrial acetic acid and caramel. Vinegar is not expensive, but the substitute is cheaper.

Trading Standards has taken up this issue in the past and bottles of non-brewed condiment are clearly marked. Unfortunately, those working in fish & chip shops don’t ask you if you would like ‘salt and non-brewed condiment’. I wonder how many shops use proper vinegar.

Looks like they can be really tough in Australia on misleading food advertising:

” The Australian Federal Court has banned supermarket Coles from advertising that its bread was made or baked on the day it was sold for three years.

The supermarket giant was also ordered to display a notice in its stores and online explaining that it had falsely advertised bread products as “freshly baked” and “baked today”.

In June this year it was ruled that Coles breached the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by labelling its bread “fresh”, claiming its par-baked bread was “Baked Today, Sold Today” and “Freshly Baked In-Store”, when it was actually partially baked and frozen off-site (in some cases overseas), transported to Coles stores and finished off there.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which brought the case to court, successfully argued that labelling of the not-so-freshly-baked-bread was likely to mislead consumers into thinking the bread was prepared from scratch in Coles’ in-house bakeries on the day it was offered for sale…………..

………. ACCC Chairman Rod Sims released a statement earlier today saying: “The ACCC welcomes the orders from the Court this morning, which follow on from the Court’s earlier decision that Coles’ representations were false or misleading.”
There will be a separate hearing to establish a penalty.