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They were all codding

Whatever about quaffing a Guinness, many visitors to Ireland take time out to sample the delights of fish and chip restaurants.

But what you see on the menu might not always be what you get, though a determined effort is now being made to make sure that there's nothing fishy about what the customer pays for.

A total of 21 takeaway outlets, fishmongers and restaurants were caught trying to cod customers as a result of an investigation by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

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The FSAI found that three-quarters of smoked fish it tested was labeled as the wrong species, and that fast-food outlets were the worst offenders.

The study, according to a report in the Irish Independent, found cheaper pollock, hake, smelt and haddock were being used to replace the more valuable and scarce cod.

FSAI chief executive, Professor Alan Reilly, said the mislabeling could be a money-making racket for businesses deceiving their customers.

"If a consumer wants to buy a piece of cod, it should be a piece of cod they are buying and not some other fish," he said.

One third of the samples taken from takeaways did not match the customer's order.

The FSAI probe revealed that 73 percent, or eight out of the 11, smoked-fish samples it genetically analyzed were wrongly labeled.

Ordinary white fish was more heavily tested, but only 13 out of 100 were found to be labeled incorrectly.

The FSAI began checking fish and chip shops after last year's discovery by a University College Dublin scientist that a quarter of the fish sold in the city's takeaways were wrongly labeled cod, the report stated.

Meanwhile, a clear reason behind the temptation to mislabel cod in particular has emerged with a report that stocks of cod and whiting in the Irish Sea are now at their lowest recorded levels.

While the herring population has recovered to a stable level, and haddock spawning is on the increase, some traditionally fished species remain seriously depleted, this according to a recently published report - commissioned by the Northern Ireland Executive in Belfast - on the current state of the marine environment. The report is entitled the "Northern Ireland State of the Seas" analysis.

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