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Research article2021Peer reviewed

Chinese eel products in EU markets imply the effectiveness of trade regulations but expose fraudulent labelling

Stein, Florian Martin; Frankowski, Jens; Nijman, Vincent; Absil, Christine; Kranendonk, Irene; Dekker, Willem


The stock of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is in a multi-decadal decline. Therefore, trade in European eel is now restricted by EU law and the listing in CITES Appendix II. EU law prohibits the trade of European eel across the EU’s outer border and CITES regulates the global trade elsewhere. In November and December 2019, we purchased 108 eel products in 21 cities in five major eel importing countries in Europe (Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Great Britain, France) and three online shops. All were imported from China and 73 samples were genetically identified as American eel (A. rostrata), 33 as Japanese eel (A. japonica), and a single sample each as European eel and Indian shortfin eel (A. bicolor pacifica). The one European eel sample violated the EU trade ban and CITES trade regulations. However, 28.7 % of the product labels violated EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC). Our results imply that Chinese exporters sell their European eel products outside the EU market and therefore avoid violating EU law. However, fraudulent labelling point at inadequate existing EU labelling requirements for prepared and preserved products and ongoing molecular genetic control of eel commodities entering the EU from China.


Anguilla; CITES; DNA barcoding; Food safety; Unagi kabayaki; Wildlife trade

Published in

Marine Policy
2021, Volume: 132, article number: 104651

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Fish and Aquacultural Science
    Food Science

    Publication identifier


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