10.1016/j.marpol.2011.10.006

Whitefish wars: Pangasius, politics and consumer confusion in Europe

Abstract

Rapid growth in production of the farmed Vietnamese whitefish pangasius and its trade with the European Union has provoked criticism of the fish’s environmental, social and safety credentials by actors including WWF and Members of the European Parliament and associated negative media coverage. This paper reviews the range of claims communicated about pangasius (identified as a form of mass mediated risk governance), in light of scientific evidence and analysis of data from the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feeds food safety notification system for imported seafood. This analysis shows pangasius to be generally safe, environmentally benign and beneficial for actors along the international value chains that characterise the trade. The case is made that increasingly politicised debates in Europe around risk and uncertainty are potentially counterproductive for EU seafood security and European aquaculture industry, and that the trade in pangasius can contribute to sustainable seafood consumption in a number of ways. Transparent evidence-based assessment and systems for communicating complex issues of risk for products such as pangasius are required in order to support continuance of fair and mutually beneficial trade

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