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In recent years, fish has become one of the most important foods in the world, with an increase in  demand reported by all industrialized countries. This trend, mainly due to health dietary trends, has led to a growing number of imported products which are routinely consumed in Italy. Within the European Community, Italy has the greatest dependence on the commercial international fish market, dominated by Asia and particularly by China, which alone accounts for 89% of the world total, corresponding to 77% of the overall income of this sector. Unfortunately, the arrival of new species, which often lose their morphological characteristics after processing, has led to problems regarding their identification. Owing to these difficulties, it is not uncommon for products to be sold on the market under a false commercial denomination, in conflict with the provisions of the current legislation (REG CE 2065/2001 concerning consumer information. Commercial fraud, due to Chinese fish imports into Italy , is linked to the replacement of national species, such as Whitebait (or Bianchetto, the juvenile form of Sardina pilchardus) and the Transparent goby (or Rossetto, Aphia minuta), with Ice fish (or Noodlefishes), which is a freshwater and brackishwater Salangide, sold as a frozen product for a few euros per kilo. Ice fish, according to the provisions of the MIPAAF Decree of January 31, 2008, is the commercial name that may be used only for the two species Protosalanx spp. and Neosalanx spp. These were originally native to the Yellow Sea and then spread to Eastern Asia. Despite  its small size, they have a high commercial interest and have been exploited for a long time. In particular, Bianchetto and Rossetto, which are very valuable species fished in Mediterranean waters, are more often being illegally replaced with species that are generally identified as Icefish. These illegal substitutions are due to the strong morphological similarity to Rossetto and Bianchetto, but also to the lower commercial value of icefish, which over time has become quite dominant in a very fertile market niche. The problem has become increasingly topical as evidenced by several fraud notifications, reported over the last few years, for both thawed and preserved products, and by the publications of food business operators regarding identification standards based on morphological characteristics. We have thus developed a biomolecular method, based on the analysis of gene sequences, which is able to differentiate the Chinese species from the finest homegrown, thus enabling the product to be clearly identified . The method developed has been applied to different samples of various origins, in order to evaluate the effectiveness and to collect data, thus  improving our knowledge of such cases of fraud in Italy.


1. “Caratterizzazione molecolare di prodotti della pesca d’importazione cinese (pesce ghiaccio)” – A.I.V.I online Giugno 2011, vol. 1 n. 0
2. “Molecular characterization of icefish, (Salangidae family), using direct sequencing of mitochondrial cytochrome b gene” – Food Control 2011, 22 (6)
3. “Multiplexconventional and real-timePCR for fishspecies identification of Bianchetto (juvenileform of Sardina pilchardus), Rossetto (Aphia minuta), and Icefish in fresh, marinated and cooked products” – Food Chemistry 2012, 133 (1)

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(Italiano) Report Oceana 2016

(Italiano) Report Oceana 2016

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