Birds Eye/Iglo still linked to illegal fishing

Feature story - 4 October, 2006
Last week the European Fish Processors Association (AIPCE) met in Dublin to discuss how the industry would handle the increasing amount of illegal cod ending up in our burgers and fishsticks. The good news: they made some promising recommendations. The bad news: these are only "guidelines", and not binding. Two of the biggest brands – Birds Eye and Iglo – have remained silent in public about their commitment to these guidelines.

Activist labels Baltic cod "STOLEN FISH" in a Swedish ICA supermarket.

The guidelines that AIPCE came up with were strangely familiar, being pretty similar to our own recommendations.  However, they only applied to Barents Sea cod and not Baltic Sea cod, which, as we reported last month, is up to 30 percent illegally caught.  The guidelines are also very general, nevertheless they are a good first step and deserve to be widely implemented. (If you're really keen you can download the AIPCE guidelines here).

Thousands of Ocean Defenders have recently asked the number one frozen food brands in Europe, Birds Eye and Iglo, to make a public statement on how they

would avoid pirate fish in their products before the Dublin meeting. So far, they have remained silent.  Birds Eye and Iglo are in the process of being sold to a company called Permira, so they are in the limelight right now as the industry waits for the sale to be finalised.

Captain Birdseye strikes back

Meanwhile, in response to all this publicity, a debate has been waged on the industry news website Intrafish.  The site summarised a letter from Unilever, current owners of Birds Eye and Iglo, in response to our recent actions involving Ocean Defenders:

"Unilever felt comfortable purchasing from the [Baltic] region, given European Commission proposals that fishing continue there, and added that withdrawing for (sic) fishing in that area would increase the pressures in other fisheries."

Our oceans campaigner in Norway, Truls Gulowsen, was pretty shocked at that statement.  Truls explains, "I hope I have misunderstood. Do Iglo and Birds Eye really claim to continue to source cod from the depleted Eastern Baltic, until its possible collapse, as a measure to protect other fish stocks? Or is this just another piece of marketing work trying to confuse the audience?"

Truls also pointed out that while the European Commission did indeed propose that fishing continued in the Baltic Sea, this was against all scientific advice including from their own

scientific advisory body!

Don't call us, we'll call you

Birds Eye and Iglo also said in their statement that while they would like to meet with us, "the future leadership of Permira's frozen food business[...]is not yet finally designated, so we cannot guarantee their presence."  The Unilever letter added that no decision on Permira leadership would be made before the beginning of November, although the new CEO has been named.

"'We assume in the meantime...our brands would not continue to be targetedin public by your organization [Greenpeace] on these issues,' Unilever said."

We disagree - we think consumers have the right to know what is ending up in their seafood, and what the brands they are buying stand for - right now.


Mega fish fingers – 100 percent fish, 30 percent illegal?

Also, it's quite strange that apparently no decisions can be made before November (and more meetings), but yesterday Birds Eye announced a new product - Captain Birdseye Fish Finger Megas, a product aimed at "reinvigorating" the fish finger brand. So it seems it's business as usual at Birds Eye, at least on some fronts.

Intrafish reported: "The new product uses a larger 100-percent fillet, and a healthier coating, aimed at reinforcing the notion that Birds Eye is increasing the quality of its products, and bringing 'new and lapsed consumers to the brand'. "

We'd like to know what exactly that "100-percent fillet" is.  Is it 100 percent legal cod? We doubt it.  We also would like to know that Birds Eye is increasing the quality of their products - but in our case, that means a public statement on how they and Iglo will take real, concrete steps to ensure that pirate fish doesn't end up in your Mega Fish Finger.  Otherwise there may be a lot more of those lapsed consumers.

Take action!

Tell Birds Eye and Iglo that you would like to know (and now!) how they will tackle illegal fish in their products.