With hints of fish bladder

It is a fact that fish bladders are useful in the process of making wine (and beer for that matter).  Before you imagine something slimy and smelly, let me explain that the fish bladders are dried and consist largely of collagen that has been found to attract bitter tannins and phenolics.  So the winemaker can add a bit of fish bladder to pick up these bits not wanted in the wine and then it can be filtered out again.  The result is superb clarity for white wines – a bit like holey apples, cloudy wine isn’t that appealing to consumers. 

However, the tinest traces of fish bladder could potentially remain in the wine.   Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) make it mandatory to declare this because some people are allergic to fish.  While producers don’t exactly have to write “with hints of fish bladder” in the tasting notes, they do have to put it on the label somewhere that it may contain traces of it.   Some companies have chosen not to use it anymore for fear of putting off consumers.  Fortunately for Fiasco we have chosen not to use fish bladders in the production of our wine because its clarity was good enough as it was. 

However, FSANZ are now considering removing the mandatory label because research has now found the use of the fish bladders “doesn’t raise any safety concerns for the consumers allergic to fish.”   They are seeking public comment on this.  What do you think?  Personally, I think it’s important that food is well labelled, that we know what we are eating and drinking (… Warning: This baby formula contains excessive melamine that may kill).  Although the fish bladder may not cause an allergic reaction, what about vegetarians?   Or would they prefer not know than to have to forego wine 😉 ?  On the other hand, is this labelling going overboard when we are talking about something that is added then removed again?


23 Responses to “With hints of fish bladder”

  1. October 2, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    As one of those annoying people who has a really restricted food diet, I appreciate good labelling. I would be asking about the certainty of the research that the fish doesn’t raise any concerns for those allergic.
    Current labelling standards allow companies to label their food as gluten free if it contains less than 2% gluten (or 0.2% – can’t remember sorry), but for some people, that’s enough to set off a serious allergic reaction.
    So maybe they could simply say, contains less than **% of ***.
    Although had I not already known about the fish bladders I’d be putting back a bottle of wine that said ‘contains less than 2% fish bladder’!!
    Looking forward to seeing your wine on Auckland shelves 🙂

  2. 2 M & M
    October 3, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I totally agree with Rachel.
    I think everything should be well labelled. Allergies are affecting people more each year and only a small trace of whatever you are allergic to can be dangerous for some. Personally I like to know what ingredients are in what I am eating and drinking.
    Imagine sitting back enjoying a bottle of fine wine and then end up having an anaphaylactic shock because of traces of fish bladder. What a “fiasco”

  3. 3 Uncle Jakey
    October 3, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I think that accurate labelling is important, but at the same time I accept that it could give the wrong idea to many consumers. To my knowledge (which is somewhat surface – so please correct me if I am wrong) wines processed in this way don’t contain a percentage (of any significance) of fish bladder (or egg white in some cases – also used for fining wine) so much as a minute trace. Unlike chocolate bar companies who have to say “may contain traces of nuts” on packaging – not because the bar contains nuts but because the factory processes different flavours on the same equipment – where there is the risk of a significant quantity of nut accidentally appearing in the wrong bar, the amount of fish bladder that might ever be present in any wine is indeed just a trace. Still, I think it’s better to have the information about agents used in processing wine on bottles than not both for safety’s sake and to create a point of difference for those choosing alternative processing methods. I think the wording “may contain traces of…” or just the info “fined using fish/egg products” is enough rather than giving a percentage figure.

  4. October 3, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Yes M & M its a fiasco I’d rather not be responsible for, but Uncle Jakey is right that we are talking miniscule amounts and FSANZ have now concluded that it does not pose any safety concerns to those allergic to fish. It’s interesting the issues you raise about wording though Uncle Jakey- “may contain traces of fish bladder” is more off putting than something like “fined using natural isinglass” (isinglass is another name for the dried fish bladders). Some foods and drinks contain warnings that use chemical terms that many folk probably don’t know a thing about, eg “Warning, contains phenylalanine” on a can of Diet Coke. Would people in China have avoided the baby formula that had in small print at the bottom: “May contain melamine.”? I think at the end of the day there is a lot of responsibility on producers, and consumers do put their trust in them. It’s in our best interests not to mess with that trust.

  5. November 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I personally want to know what I’m drinking. I care about what I put in my body, and with all the poisons around us, I’m very careful to eliminate as much as possible. Fish in this day and age is toxic. And to me a little toxin is too much. If I can avoid it, then I want to. I’m vegan and I don’t even chew gum due to the sheep oil in it. YUCK! I think we as consumers should know EXACTLY what is in our food and drink. I think it’s also up to us to be educated on what we put in our bodies. So often I hear people say they are eating healthy, when in reality many are eating so many toxins at every meal.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let all consumers know what we are getting in our foods and drinks. I’m not a wine drinker because I also feel alcohol is a toxin. But if I want to put a toxin in my body, I have a right to do so or not. Keeping any ingredients a secret is just wrong!

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