Barriers to eating fish still remain

14 May, 2012. New consumer research¹ carried out as part of a review of the fish food chain has revealed that 58% of the population say they eat fish at least once a week or more, compared to 48% in 2005. Consumption by children and young adults remains particularly low². The research conducted by safefood, the body responsible for promoting healthy eating and food safety also found that many perceived barriers to purchasing and eating fish still remain.
Dr Aileen McGloin, Scientific Support Manager with safefood, said “Our review found that people said they are eating all types of fish more often than they did in 2005, including fresh white and oily fish, tinned fish and fish in batter. Our research also found the main concern for consumers about fish is to do with freshness and water quality. Consumers report being less concerned about dyes and labelling* of fish but are more concerned about fish stocks and sustainability than before.”
The review, which updates the work³ previously done by safefood in this area, revealed that taste, smell and appearance were among the main reasons mentioned by people for not eating fish. Issues such as shelf life, storage and defrosting were listed by people as barriers which put them off buying and eating more fresh fish while preparation and cooking skills also remain a problem for them. On the plus side, wider availability and choice in frozen and ready-prepared fish categories, cookery programmes and campaigns to promote fish consumption were having a positive effect.

We know from our research that consumers have high levels of confidence in fish as a safe food and that more and more people regard it as a healthy food choice”

said Dr McGloin. “It is also very encouraging that non-fish eaters told us they are willing to give fish to their children. While price is a consideration, people are overcoming this by buying frozen varieties and taking advantage of special offers in retailers.”

“We cannot overemphasize the health benefits of a diet rich in fish”, continued Dr. McGloin. “Whether it’s heart health for adults or the healthy development of the central nervous system for babies, fish is a rich source of protein, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), iodine and vitamin D. Consumers should try to eat two portions of fish a week, one being oily and where possible should try to choose fresh fish over processed varieties”.
The Consumer Focused Review of Finfish can be downloaded from the safefood website at

- Ends -

For further information please contact

Orla Dormer/Serena Leyden, WHPR
01 669 0030 and 
Dermot Moriarty, safefood
+353 1 448 0600 / 086 381 1034 (mobile) or


¹ Consumer Focused Review of the FinFish Food Chain; safefood 2012
² Additional analysis commissioned by safefood of National Children’s Food Survey (IUNA 2004)
National diet and nutrition survey: young people ages 4-18 years. Gregory J, Lowe S, Bates C, Prentice A, Jackson LV, Smithers G, et al (Volume 2: Report of the Oral Health Survey). 2000
³ Consumer Focused Review of the FinFish Food Chain; safefood 2005

safefood’s tips for handling, storing and preparing fish

  • Like any other food, fish should be stored, prepared and cooked as recommended, in effect, treated like raw meat
  • When fish is purchased, it should be frozen or refrigerated promptly
  • If frozen¹, fish should be stored and defrosted properly in a sealed container on the bottom shelf of a fridge before cooking, to ensure any juices don’t drip on to other foods
  • If you are unsure about freshness, fish should smell fresh rather than smelling ‘fishy’
  • Processed fish products e.g. fish fingers or fillets are convenient and consumers should remember that eating fish coated with a batter will inevitably have a higher fat and salt content and may also be lower in essential nutrients
  • For parents, having fish on children’s plates is a good idea and safefood recommends that if buying processed fish products to read the nutrition labels
¹ Many processed fish products can be cooked from frozen. Consumers should refer to manufacturers’ cooking guidelines.

Notes to Editors

Consumer Focused ReviewsIn 2005, safefood initiated a programme of comprehensive food chain reviews over a three year period with each review profiling a specific food category. The food categories covered were Beef; Chicken; Pork; Finfish; Fruit & Vegetables, Food Origins and Milk. As some time has passed since these reviews were first published, safefood is revisiting each of them in order to update their content and ensure consumers are informed of any changes that have arisen in that time.
* Legislation introduced in 2010 now requires fish labelling to state whether the fish was caught at sea, from inland waters or farmed and for those fish caught at sea, the label must also specify from which sea area.