September 8, 2007/Guelph Mercury(Ontario, Canada) -- Frozen fish is healthiest plain, not battered.

This according to Colin Garrioch, a University of Guelph master's student in nutritional sciences. Working under retired food content and labels researcher Bruce Holub, Garrioch pulled a variety of major breaded and unbreaded sole and haddock out of grocery store freezers to compare their fat content.

Health Canada says there are bad fats like trans fats and saturated fats, and there are good fats like Omega-3 fatty acids.

Garrioch tested the fat content of breaded brands Captain High Liner, Blue Water, No Name and President's Choice against unbreaded sole and haddock by Seaquest.

Preliminary results show processed fish lacks Omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown help fight heart disease. The breaded fish also showed more saturated fats, which studies show increase risk of heart disease.

"Frozen, unbreaded fish products are a healthier food choice than commercially prepared frozen fish products because they are higher in Omega-3 and lower in trans fats," Garrioch said.

Of the products he tested, fat content listed on the packaging differed from the actual fat in the sticks and filets 54% of the time.

In one sole product, saturated fat content was 37% higher than it said it was on the label. In a particular haddock product, the saturated fat was 36% lower than on the label.

"We are not consuming enough of the fish-based Omega-3s," he said. "The American Heart Association recommends 500mg of epa and dha per day." These polyunsaturated fats can be found in fish and seafood, fish oil caplets, enriched yogurt and milks.

"The fortified foods like milk and yogurt do contain Omega-3," he said. "The problem is the government has limited the amount to 50mg per serving."

To get the recommended amount, you would have to eat nearly 10 cups of yogurt a day.

Garrioch declined to make public the results of each product by name because they didn't test every product on the market. "Some companies weren't tested and may be just as guilty," Holub said.

If a product's nutritional content on the label is found to be drastically different from the food in the box, there is no fine, said Charmaine Curan, acting national manager for the nutrition and health claims programs with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

"The first course of action is to go back to the manufacturer and talk to them," she said.

They ask the company why the labels may be inaccurate and tell them to fix the discrepancy. If the problem persists, they send a warning letter. Then, in rare cases, prosecution is a possibility.

If the product poses an immediate health risk, they issue a recall. But fat cannot pose an immediate health risk. Too much sodium might, she said.

Garrioch will submit the results of the tests for possible publication in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research.

Breaded sole: 11g of fat per 100g
Unbreaded sole: 0.6g per 100g
Breaded haddock: 13g per 100g
Unbreaded haddock: 0.6g per 100g

Breaded sole: 1g per 100g
Unbreaded sole: 0.2g per 100g
Breaded haddock: 1.2g per 100g
Unbreaded haddock: 0.2g per 100g

Breaded sole: 62mg per 100g
Unbreaded sole: 1.6mg per 100g
Breaded haddock: 110mg per 100g
Unbreaded haddock: 5mg per 100g

Breaded sole: 105mg per 100g
Non-breaded sole: 260mg per 100g
Breaded haddock: 141mg per 100g
Non-breaded haddock: 288mg per 100g

From the September 10, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash