A French importer has admitted importing 103 metric tons of Baltic salmon from Sweden, despite this being banned by European law because of the fish's high dioxin levels, according to media reports.
Pecheries Nordiques apparently told the Swedish broadcaster SVT that it purchased the salmon between 2011 and 2012, without being caught out.
The fish was then sold to large supermarket chains including Carrefour and Intermarche, said SVT.
However, Pecheries Nordiques' director François Agussol has said the company acted in good faith. “Nobody told us this was illegal,” Agussol told the news agency AFP after the documentary aired. Tests on the fish did not pick out the dioxin, he said.
Since the story was picked up by French media, Agussol and the company have responded with a letter clarifying its side of the story.
While he confirmed the company had sold Baltic wild salmon from Sweden, Agussol stated he had never admitted to importing contaminated fish.
In April, Swedish authorities had said that a fisheries exporter in the southern port of Karlskrona illegally exported 105t of Baltic salmon to France.
According to SVT, two Swedish wholesalers have now been reported for illegal exporting the fish, including to Denmark, France, Germany and the UK. The importers are said to have then sold the fish across the continent.
Pecheries Nordiques is based in Echinghen, in the northern French region Pas-de-Calais.
The EU banned Sweden from exporting Baltic salmon to other EU countries in 2002, because of high levels of dioxin. Sweden, Finland and Latvia are allowed to catch and sell the fish within their own borders, on the condition that consumers are warned about dioxin.
The Swedish food and safety authority Livsmedelsverket has compared the affair to the horsemeat scandal, said the Norwegian broadcaster NRK. The difference is that this fish has long-term health effects on people, and that is serious, the authority told SVT.
Sweden caught around 250t salmon from the Baltic sea last year, out of which only a small share was consumed domestically.