- More than 1 in 5 scampi products were found to contain pangasius catfish
- The metre-long beasts are bred in sprawling aquatic farms in Vietnam
- They are largely devoid of taste but are used to bulk out the langoustine tails
- More expensive ‘wholetail scampi’ products are often bulked out with water
Of all the millions of questions typed into internet search engines by curious Britons, what would you say were the most common? ‘Why is the sky blue?’ and ‘What are next week’s Lottery numbers?’ maybe.
Well, how about: ‘What is in scampi?’
Curiously, this last question is posed with huge frequency in cyberspace — for, it seems, while we enjoy eating £50 million worth of these deep-fried nuggets of loveliness every year — served with a pile of chunky chips, a wedge of lemon and dollop of tartare sauce — few of us know precisely what is in them.
The correct answer to the question should be the tail of a langoustine — also known as the Dublin Bay prawn.
It’s the tasty, smaller crustacean cousin of the lobster, which is caught by trawlers in the North Sea, the Irish Sea and off Scotland’s west coast.
Not once in a Google search on the contents of scampi should the response ‘pangasius catfish’ appear. But that, shockingly, is what a lot of ‘scampi’ actually is.
The Mail can reveal that DNA tests carried out earlier this year on a number of scampi products found that more than one in five contained flesh from this cheap, imported fish.
Bred in sprawling aquatic farms in Vietnam and Thailand, these metre-long, 40-kilogram beasts are largely devoid of taste but are used to bulk out the langoustine tails.
The two are mixed together with water and a cocktail of other ingredients, and the resulting greyish lumps of matter entombed in a breadcrumb coating — before being packaged and sold as ‘scampi bites’.
The amount of langoustine in these products can be as little as seven per cent, while the fish used to bulk it out — pangasius, hake, pollock or some other white fish — will often be more than five times that.
While the companies behind these products say they give consumers the chance to experience a ‘scampi taste’ at a budget price, most who buy and eat them are totally oblivious to what they actually contain.
Even those who stick to the more expensive ‘wholetail scampi’ products — each made from an individual langoustine tail — are unlikely to be getting much bang for their buck, since each individual piece of breaded scampi contains little more than 40 per cent langoustine.
The rest is made up of the outside coating and of water. Indeed, tests have shown that some of them contain more water than actual langoustine.