The oilfish, Ruvettus pretiosus, is a species of snake mackerel in the family Gempylidae, and the only species in the genus Ruvettus. It is found in the Mediterranean, middle Atlantic and throughout the southern seas, at depths between 100 and 800 m. Its length is between 80 cm and 2 m.

The flesh is very oily and although edible, the oil actually consists of wax ester
Wax ester
An ester of a fatty acid and a long-chain alcohol. These oils have similar properties as triglycerides, but are indigestible. They are found in some fish such as orange roughy, oilfish, escolar, black oreo, smooth oreo and other deep water fish. They are also present in marine copepods. Wax...

s, which are not digested like traditional oil. The flesh has an oil content of around 25%, and with serving sizes of several ounces and upwards commonplace, some people experience a laxative side effect from such a large amount of wax esters.

Oilfish is pleasantly rich in taste and can be substantially cheaper than some other fish species, leading to some fish sellers to intentionally mislabel it as butterfish
The family Stromateidae of butterfishes contains 17 species of fish in 3 genera. Butterfishes live in coastal waters off the Americas, western Africa and in the Indo-Pacific.-Species:* Genus Pampus...

 or even codfish, despite the utter lack of relation. This leads the consumer to often eat large servings, as they assume it is a fish with which they are familiar, and then some may experience a laxative effect. Because of this, Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 and Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 have imposed an import ban on oilfish, and Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 has banned oilfish from being sold as food. The US FDA has warned consumers about potential mislabeling of oilfish, but has concluded any laxative side effects that occur are uncomfortable at worst and pose no health risk.

Hong Kong oilfish controversy

Hong Kong's
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

PARKnSHOP is one of the two largest supermarket chains in Hong Kong, the other being Wellcome. PARKnSHOP operates more than 260 outlets in Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China....

 supermarket was selling oilfish as "cod fish (oilfish)" in its stores. Consumers ate the fish, believing it to be codfish, then suffered oily diarrhea (keriorrhea
Keriorrhea is greasy, orange-colored stools which results from the consumption of indigestible wax esters found in oil fish and escolar....

) as a result. The oilfish-labelling controversy was reported by a number of news and media organizations, such as TVB Newsmagazine. A total of 14 complaints were filed against the supermarket chain, leading to an investigation by the Centre for Food Safety. ParkNShop has denied responsibility, claiming the fish is safe for human consumption. Nonetheless, the chain has since stopped selling the fish product.

On 30 January 2007, the commercial attache from the Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n consulate in Hong Kong confirmed the export health certificate Mr Peter Johnston
Peter Johnston
Peter D. Johnston is an international negotiation expert whose results have been formally recognized by the US Government for their positive economic and social impact....

, ParkNShop's Quality Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs General Manager, had used in its media conference several days earlier, was doctored. The attache explained its fisheries department, under a request from the Hong Kong importer, had changed the product name, by including "Cod Fish" alongside its scientific name, on the certificate.

As a result of the PARKnSHOP-oilfish incident, Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong published new guidelines on the proper labelling of oilfish to consumers, such that oilfish species Ruvettus pretiosus and Lepidocybium flavobrunneum should not be labelled as "cod". ParknShop was also fined HKD
Hong Kong dollar
The Hong Kong dollar is the currency of the jurisdiction. It is the eighth most traded currency in the world. In English, it is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively HK$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies...

 45,000 after pleading guilty to 9 counts of misrepresentation of products.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as CBC and officially as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian crown corporation that serves as the national public radio and television broadcaster...

reported (Feb. 23, 2007) on several cases in Canada where mislabelled oilfish was sold at Chinese supermarkets.
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