Major supermarkets in Hong Kong were found selling mislabelled seafood products and in one case possibly overcharging customers as the wrong species of fish was identified, according to a global conservation body. The WWF published results of a local investigation in which it purchased 657 frozen seafood products from 96 supermarket stores operated by nine major supermarket operators. In one of the report’s key findings, a frozen fish fillet from Taste supermarket – operated by AS Watson Group, which is owned by Li Ka-shing’s CK Hutchison Holdings and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings – was labelled “leopard coral trout” but later found to be squaretail coral grouper after a DNA analysis. The squaretail coral grouper is considered a globally vulnerable species. The mislabelling may also have taken advantage of consumers’ wallets, as leopard coral trout has a higher wholesale price than squaretail coral grouper. ‘The more stringent the law, the more safe the food’: the struggle for Hong Kong food safety standards The conservation body found insufficient information in 82 per cent of the frozen seafood products it purchased, and it claimed consumers were prevented from making informed choices about whether the seafood was from sustainable sources. It said the insufficient labels lacked at least one of three key identifiers: species, country of origin and production method, referring to whether the seafood had been farmed or caught wild. “Customers need to be assured that the high-priced seafood they purchase has not been swapped out for a lower-priced item,” Dr Allen To, assistant manager of WWF Hong Kong’s footprint programme, said. Dairy Farm International Holdings, parent of Wellcome supermarket, was not immune from mislabelling. It was found to have labelled chilled spotted coral grouper as leopard coral trout. A Wellcome spokesman said the company had instructed its stores to remove the product from its shelves and had offered customers a refund. “We are also proactively communicating with our supplier to look into the matter,” he added. In another mislabelling, a sea cucumber from Nigeria was purchased from another AS Watson Group supermarket, International. But WWF said the species of sea cucumber was not found in Nigeria or the Atlantic Ocean and that either the species or the country of origin was incorrect. A ParknShop official said the origin of the sea cucumber was written on the health certificate and that all shipments of frozen seafood it sold came with a health certificate issued by local authorities in compliance with government requirements. The official said the other concerned frozen seafood products had been “temporarily taken ... off the shelves to follow up with our suppliers”. WWF believed the mislabelling cases could be a breach of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. It reported them to the Customs and Excise Department. Information about species ... is crucial for consumers Jovy Chan, WWF Hong Kong “Information about species ... is crucial for consumers wishing to check the sustainability of the seafood they purchase,” Jovy Chan, WWF Hong Kong’s senior programme officer for sustainable seafood, said. A department official said it had received the complaint and was “looking into” the cases. Kai Bo, owned by Moretide Investments, scored worst in the report, as 23.9 per cent of its frozen seafood lacked any information. CEC International Holdings Limited, which owns 759 Store, scored best for its labelling, with 43.6 per cent of its frozen seafood displaying all three identifiers. Chan warned mislabelling could pose a health hazard if there was a recall and that wrong information could result in an offending product staying on shelves.