Following food fraud investigations, the European Commission (EC) recently set new limits on certain antioxidants in tuna, stating that tuna loins sold as fresh have been regularly found to contain the additives in higher amounts than what is considered necessary to achieve the typical antioxidant effect on fresh tuna. The regulation has set a maximum level of 300 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) for ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, and calcium ascorbate.

There were previously no limits set on the use of the antioxidants in tuna, as they may be used, in accordance with good manufacturing practices, to slow down the discoloration and rancidity of unprocessed fish. The antioxidants are also considered to be “of a very low safety concern” with a low probability of adverse health effects in humans.

The new limits may combat food fraud by disallowing unnecessarily high levels of the additives to be used in order to artificially restore the color of canned tuna and mislead consumers into believing the product is fresh. The fraudulent practice was suspected by competent authorities in EU Member States.

Spain, in particular, requested that EC set an appropriate maximum level for the use of the antioxidants in thawed tuna sold as fresh tuna, or in marinated tuna. Thawed tuna loins marketed as “fresh” tuna are to be obtained from tuna that is frozen below –18 °C after fishing.