Selfridges forced to remove misleading sustainable salmon claims

Selfridges is accused of 'deceiving' its customers with its salmon claims
The retailer is accused of 'deceiving' its customers with its salmon claims - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTOCK

Selfridges has been told to remove misleading claims about the sustainability of farmed salmon sold in its flagship London store.

The retailer was forced to remove a promotional board from its Oxford Street fish counter this week after an intervention by Westminster City Council.

Customers had been led to believe that all farmed fish sold in the branch was “sustainable” and reared in closed-loop systems, which are usually located on land to minimise environmental impact.

The salmon, sold by Selfridges, is produce from Loch Duart, a fish farmer based in the Scottish Highlands. Its salmon has been served at Wimbledon and by celebrity chefs such as Rick Stein and Raymond Blanc.

Don Staniford, a veteran campaigner, had accused Selfridges of “deceiving” customers and pointed to a 2019 ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that Loch Duart should not promote itself as sustainable after it upheld concerns over the environmental impacts of fish farming.

Mr Staniford also highlighted that Loch Duart rears salmon in open cages located in coastal waters, leaving fish vulnerable to attacks and infection from other creatures, not contained systems as Selfridges suggested.

In a complaint lodged on Tuesday with Westminster City Council, Mr Staniford said: “It seems clear that over four years later Selfridges and its supplier did not get the memo and enforcement action is required.”

‘Wounds, gashes and cuts consistent with seal attacks’

An environmental health officer assured Mr Staniford on Thursday that Selfridges had removed the board in light of his complaint.

In an email, the council official stated that Selfridges staff “are investigating the matter and have taken immediate action at my request to remove the claim”.

Mr Staniford welcomed the council’s intervention, adding: “No amount of greenwashing will alter the fact that salmon farming is inherently unsustainable. This victory is a shot across the bow of retailers who continue to make false green claims about ‘responsibly sourced’ Scottish salmon.”

In 2019, Fishy Business, an anti-fish-farming blogger, complained to the ASA that an image on Loch Duart’s website describing the company as sustainable was inaccurate because of the environmental damage caused by salmon farms.

The ASA ruled that the complaint was “valid” and asked Loch Duart to make changes. The company promised to stop claiming to be sustainable and the ASA closed the case without launching a formal investigation.

Mr Staniford said fish farming in coastal areas was not sustainable because many fish died from illness and disease. Farmed salmon can also be exposed to attacks by seals.

He claims to have uncovered mass mortalities at Loch Duart’s Reintraid salmon farm in Loch a Chairn Bhain near Kylesku in Sutherland during an investigation in August. He alleges that video footage suggests “wounds, gashes and cuts consistent with seal attacks”.

Loch Duart declined to comment.

Selfridges has been approached for comment.

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