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SSPO chief executive Scott Landsburgh. Photo: SSPO
SSPO chief executive Scott Landsburgh. Photo: SSPO

The chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, Scott Landsburgh, has described MSP Mark Ruskell as 'misinformed' after the politician raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament about Label Rouge salmon.

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In a letter to Scottish Green Party MSP Ruskell, Landsburgh wrote: “On behalf of the thousands of men and women who live and work in remote rural areas of the Highlands and islands of Scotland who rely for their livelihoods on the successful and sustainable Scottish salmon farming sector, I am deeply concerned about the content of Parliamentary motion.

“You have obviously been advised by the campaigner representing the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA). Typically, he has misinformed you with regard to what the Label Rouge standard is about.  It is not a standard designed to assess environmental or animal welfare criteria.  There are other certification schemes covering these areas. Label Rouge is a quality mark which relates to a product which is superior to other, similar, standard  products in terms of sensory characteristics, specifically taste.

“It is a French accreditation which is presided over and managed by the French Government agencies who provide public access to relevant documents.  These documents are, understandably, available only in the French language. I would suggest that, in future, any communication emanating from the GAAIA be carefully checked for accuracy and objectivity."

Scottish Green Party MSP Mark Ruskell.
Scottish Green Party MSP Mark Ruskell.

Strict criteria

Ruskell defended his action, telling fishfarmingexpert.com: "If the long term growth of the industry is to be genuinely sustainable then it's important that quality and assurance schemes reflect the issues that concern consumers. We believe the majority of consumers will interpret a ‘quality’ mark to refer not just to taste but also origin, environmental standards, and in the case of farmed products, animal welfare issues. Label Rouge’s own website promotes the ‘full traceability’ of the product and states that their standards ‘establish the criteria which the product must meet, in particular with regard to farming techniques, feed, equipment and sites, hygiene and staff training’.

"This language is misleading when Label Rouge do not have any environmental standards and currently only publish their ‘strict criteria’ in French. Similar quality marks, such as Scotch Beef, incorporate environmental and animal welfare standards that are freely available to the public. Given the recent receipt of nearly £75,000 from the public purse to promote Label Rouge salmon, and the upcoming event in Edinburgh on 16 March to which Scottish Ministers and leaders of several local authorities have been invited, we feel the time is right to start questioning exactly what these supposed ‘quality’ standards entail and challenge the story consumers are being told about the food on their plates.”

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