Chinese authorities have ruled that rainbow trout can be sold as salmon, something that's already been happening. Photo: AllerAqua

Rainbow trout can be sold as salmon, says China

Rainbow trout can be labelled and sold as salmon in China, according to a new standard issued by a Chinese government-run fishery organisation and 13 fishery companies.

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The first Hainan Airlines flight, carrying 3.3 tonnes of Scottish salmon, is piped on its way in June. Photo: Ian Georgeson

The ruling is intended to resolve complaints that China-produced rainbow trout is being mislabelled as salmon, amid concerns that eating rainbow trout raw would lead to parasite infection, reports the Global Times.

The China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), a social organisation under the Ministry of Agriculture, argues that salmon is the umbrella name of salmonidae fish, and rainbow trout also belongs to this category.

In May, media reports claimed that up to a third of what is sold as salmon in China is in fact rainbow trout, produced in Northwest China’s Qinghai Province. The Qinghai reservoir, covering an area of 383 sq km, is located at an altitude of 2,600m and is home to the biggest salmonid farm operations in China.

‘Painted’ fish

After the media reports, social media users began to claim rainbow trout from Qinghai is being mislabelled as salmon and is infested with worms and painted to resemble salmon.

This claim was refuted by the China Fisheries Association (CFA), who said domestic rainbow trout is fed hygienically and quarantined carefully. “Whether salmon has parasites does not depend on whether it is bred in sea water or fresh water,” said the CFA.

Because of a close resemblance, some restaurants directly label rainbow trout as salmon. 

The standard now issued by CAPPMA has strict rules to control worms in salmon and asks restaurants and companies to put a label on fish products, so that consumers know where the fish comes from and their precise species.

Valuable exports

China is an increasingly important market for Scottish salmon. Last year sales to the country were worth £69 million, making it the third most valuable export destination after the United States (£193m) and France (£188m).

And in June Marine Harvest Scotland became the first farmer to take advantage of a new direct Hainan Airlines flight between Edinburgh and Beijing, sending 161 boxes (3.3 tonnes) of Scottish salmon to the Chinese capital.

Georgina Wright, head of sales at Marine Harvest, said at the time: “Getting our salmon to market as quickly as possible is key to our success when exporting to markets all over the world. 

“This new direct service allows us to reach China even faster than usual which is a huge advantage. As global demand for our salmon continues to grow it is great to have additional freight options on our doorstep.”