The dilemma of healthy eating and environmental sustainability: the case of fish.Public Health Nutr 2012; 15(2):277-84PH
Despite widespread concern over exploitation of the European Union's fish stocks, dietary guidelines in the UK continue to recommend two portions of fish per week. The present study sought to investigate whether health and/or sustainability are motivating factors when purchasing and consuming fish and whether there are sociodemographic trends.
A structured, self-completion postal questionnaire exploring consumers' attitudes towards purchasing fish, their dietary intake, stated purchasing behaviour and sociodemographic information.
Adults from 842 households randomly selected from the electoral register.
Over half of the participants (57·0 %) were aware of the health benefits of fish consumption and reported health as a primary motivator for purchasing fish; however, only 26·8 % actively sought to purchase fish from a sustainable source (e.g. Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish). Only 30·6 % of participants met current dietary recommendations for fish intake. Older respondents (>60 years of age) were more likely to report purchasing fish for health reasons and to buy MSC fish. Participants were significantly less likely to report MSC purchases if they agreed with the statement 'I am confused about which type of fish I should be eating to protect fish stocks' (P < 0·001).
The number of consumers purchasing fish for health reasons was more than those seeking sustainably sourced fish; yet, they still failed to meet the recommended intake set by the Food Standards Agency. Dietary advice to the public to increase consumption of fish conflicts with the prevailing pressure on fish stocks. Clear advice should be communicated enabling consumers to meet nutritional needs while protecting fish stocks.