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Concerns In Australia Over Carbon Monoxide Tuna Canada, January 17, 13

Consumers are being tricked into buying fish that has been treated to make it look fresher than it is.

Some tuna cuts, imported from South-East Asia and destined for fishmongers and sushi bars, have been flushed with carbon monoxide to give the flesh a bright red color for longer.

Tons of it enter Australia each month, according to the nation's food regulator. Food Standards Australia New Zealand wants to close a loophole to stop its sale here.

A report proposing a ban on the seafood processing aid warns it can disguise the age of fish and poor handling, potentially exposing people to a higher risk of food poisoning.

Domestic and other foreign suppliers who do not use the method on red-fleshed fish could also be commercially disadvantaged, it notes.

“Carbon monoxide treatment has the potential to make inferior-quality fish appear aesthetically more pleasing to consumers,” the report states.

“(It) may cover evidence that a product has been mistreated, preventing the consumers from identifying spoilt product or product treated in a way that could cause histamine poisoning.”

FSANZ believes the national food code should be clarified to end confusion.

The regulator said it was unaware of any Australian operators using the process, which has been prohibited in the US, Singapore, Canada, the European Union and Japan.

But it estimates 100 tons of tuna treated with carbon monoxide is imported each month, amounting to $12 million worth a year.

Seafood Importers Association of Australasia executive chairman Norman Grant said tuna was subject to mandatory border tests for pathogens. He was unaware of any recent increased poisoning risk.

“We are concerned about the loss of consumer appeal of the product if this proposal goes ahead,” Mr. Grant said.

“The people who sell fish are not in the business of selling rotten products. While some may regard the processing treatment as an element of deception, be reminded that there are hardly any products out there that aren’t given some kind of modified atmospheric treatment to preserve their appearance.”