Italy Is Bleaching Old Seafood to Make It Look Fresh

The EU has warned the Italian Health Ministry to stop the practice of using water and hydrogen peroxide to bleach squid, cuttlefish, and octopus.
June 17, 2016, 9:00pm

A bottle of peroxide might come in handy when you're channelling that Justin Timberlake/ramen look circa 1999, but it seems Italy may have an altogether more fishy use for the bleaching substance.

According to Italian newspaper La Stampa, the country's fishing industry has been using a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide to wash its seafood, a practice that has been approved by the Italian Health Ministry. While the chemical mix is safe to consume, there are worries it is being used to bleach seafood like squid, octopus, and cuttlefish, in order to make it appear fresher than it actually is.

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Despite the endorsement from the Italian Health Ministry, using peroxide in this way is a direct violation of EU law, and the commission has called on Italy to end the bleaching.

The Local reports that in response to a query from MEP Renata Briano, vice chair on the EU fisheries committee, a note from the EU body was sent to the Italian Health Ministry stating that "hydrogen peroxide is not a substance which the EU authorises for use with certain foodstuffs" and that Italy should "provide producers with clear information about which solutions can and can't be used to wash seafood."

A spokesperson for Seafish, which offers regulatory guidance to the UK seafood industry, told MUNCHIES that they are "not aware of this particular practice taking place in the UK" or any type of "chemical bleaching agents being used to mask the colour of other types of fish products and seafood in the UK."

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But British seafood sellers do use underhand tricks to dupe customers. The Seafish spokesperson added: "There are examples of people buying imported fish that has been washed in a saltwater solution that can help to firm up the fish flesh and make it appear more white, however, this isn't a chemical treatment and is not technically a bleaching agent."

Seafish added that there are a few ways to tell whether your seafood is legit fresh: "The smell is important—it should smell of the sea. For whole fish, the skin should be shiny with good colouration with bright red gills. Check that the eyes are shiny, convex, and black. For fillets, whitefish flesh should be bluish to translucent in colour and the flesh should be firm."

Let's hope Italian fishermen keep that bottle of peroxide for their JT-inspired locks in future.