A Norwegian company has revealed that it sold frozen salmon for several years, which was not suitable for human consumption.

Findings come from an internal investigation by the board of Pure Norwegian Seafood (PNS) into suspected irregularities in the sale of frozen salmon. Prior regulatory inspections, controls, and audits had not discovered the issues.

The board of PNS said it first suspected something at the end of October 2023. The sale of frozen salmon was halted, affected products were recalled, and the frozen salmon storage was sealed. Two individuals in the company were suspended. 

There are no reports of related illness

PNS was found to have sold frozen salmon that, according to Norwegian regulations, is not suitable for human consumption. This includes self-dead fish, floor fish, and sexually mature fish. The sale of these categories is illegal. Affected fish should have been discarded or subject to secondary processing before export.

Experts commissioned by PNS thawed frozen salmon of the types sold from the warehouse and examined them. No samples tested positive for Salmonella. The percentage of samples with Listeria monocytogenes was higher than what was expected. Listeria was only detected on the outside of fish. There are no reports that anyone’s health has been affected. 

Sales occurred to around 20 customers, especially in Eastern Europe. Findings from the investigation suggest these firms were aware of what they were buying and asked for frozen salmon in these categories. It has not been possible to determine what happened to the final products.

Estimates suggest that sales of salmon not fit for human consumption constituted just under 1 percent of the total volume of fish in PNS between 2020 and 2023, amounting to around 500 tons.

PNS also exported fish without it being processed domestically according to regulations. This kind of salmon is not unfit to eat but has external damages that must be corrected in Norway before export. The investigation indicated that between 300 and 400 tons of production fish had been exported in the past four years.

Findings ‘serious and disappointing’
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) was notified early in November. Authorities have also been informed about the findings and conclusions.

“This is a very serious matter. The investigation is not a verdict and does not give final answers, but it documents surprising and disappointing activities. Considerable work has been done to address these issues, and we are continuing those efforts,” said Helge Kvalvik, chair of the board at PNS.

“The most severe issue, in our opinion, is that the investigation uncovers systematic and concealed sales of salmon that should not have gone to human consumption. Upon request, specific customers can purchase frozen salmon that is self-dead, damaged, sexually mature, or so-called floor fish.

“In addition, production fish has been exported. This category of salmon is suited for human consumption but must be processed and corrected in Norway before export, according to Norwegian regulations.”

Måsøval acquired 65 percent of PNS in June 2021. Kvalvik is also the CEO of Måsøval, which has been a supplier of salmon to PNS. 

“These activities have been kept concealed. Neither the board of PNS, Måsøval as a supplier, nor the auditors have discovered it until now. There have been inspections and controls from the Norwegian authorities in recent years, but the activities have not been possible to uncover.”

Remy Strømskag, acting CEO of PNS since October 2023, said it had been a hard few months for everyone working there.

“It is tough to acknowledge that the company has exported frozen salmon that does not meet our standards. This should have been reported and addressed earlier. We are working together to ensure that something like this will never happen again.”

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